Tag Archives: Travel

Just When You Think Everything Is Under Control

28 Feb

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

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

Next thing I know there is a noise and Leanne is on the floor in the entrance to the kitchen.  She had tripped on the log basket beside the fire as she was stepping back and turning.  As she went down she automatically put out her right hand and it took the full force of her landing.  The time was 17h15.  It didn’t look too good and she was in pain so off we went to the nearest A&E.  We arrived at the A&E department at Brignoles, where there was a provincial general hospital, at 17h50.  By 18h10 she had had an x-ray and was in a treatment room.  Very efficient.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, she had fractured the radius and displaced the fragment in two planes – upwards and sideways.  This would require surgery.  Because she had eaten only two hours earlier they would not operate that night.  So without reducing the fracture (i.e. without even lining things up as close as possible) they fitted a support cast.  This turned out to be a huge bit of luck.
I left Leanne at the hospital around 22h00 and went back home to start dealing with travel insurance and contacting some friends.  Contacting friends turned out to be crucial.  We are blessed to have great friends who have expertise in a diverse range of fields.  In this case the medical field was trumps.  I sent a message to Belinda to tell her what had happened and the hospital’s proposed course of action.  She in turn contacted another friend who was an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hand and wrist procedures.  The result was that we declined further treatment at Brignoles in favour of returning home for better treatment.  I finally got to bed at 03h20.
I should stress that this is not meant to be an indictment on Brignoles hospital.  They are a small provincial hospital offering a wide range of services to their local community including a general orthopaedic capability.  Auckland is a much larger city and we have a wider range of services available including a specialist hand and wrist department.  Any provincial hospital in New Zealand would probably have a similar capability to Brignoles.
So with the agreement of our travel insurance company Leanne checked out of Brignoles on Tuesday and we set about firstly getting Leanne’s recovery moving along so that we could take the long flight home and secondly finalising all our affairs in France.  Fortunately we were already working on the close out and compressing what was meant to take 4 weeks into one week was actually feasible.  We also had help from local friends like Jeremy & Jo and Sue.  In fact we stayed with Jeremy & Jo on the first night out of hospital and again on our last night before departing.  They really did pamper us.
The weather was also kind in  our final week – after a very mild winter things turned quite sunny and spring was in evidence all around.  At Jeremy & Jo’s place the mimosa (wattle to us) came in to full bloom and looked great.  One very strange thing did happen with the weather however.  We got up on Wednesday morning to find the cars, and everything else, covered with dirt.  It looked like the cars had been wet down and then very fine dust thrown all over them.  In fact, that was very close to what had happened.  Once or twice a year there is a weather pattern that causes dust from the Sahara to be conveyed north and to be deposited with the rain.  There must have been a huge amount of dust deposited that night because everywhere we went cars looked like they had been on the Dakar rally.  Up at La Regalade the lake looked dirty as did the swimming pool, the terrace and outdoor furniture.  It was a mess.
On Monday 24th February we finished packing and tidying up at La Regalade and drove to Jeremy & Jo’s where we were able to weigh our four bags for the first time.  Bugger!  97kg and our limit was 80kg.  After some serious culling of clothes and keepsakes we managed to get just under the 80kg mark.  It was also time to wash all that Sahara dirt off the car and take it to be sold.
We had arranged a couple of weeks ago to sell it back to the guy we bought it from so we had called him to change the date and he was agreeable.  So with Jeremy in tow we set of to do the deal.  My heart stopped when we got to Draguignan 45 minutes away because the gates to the car yard were locked.  However a phone call brought Matt to the yard and we said farewell to our trusty French sports car.
That evening Jeremy cooked up a delicious cassoulet for dinner and Sue, Robin and Tristan joined us for a very nice evening.  Morning came around a bit too quickly and in no time at all it was time to bid our farewells to Jeremy & Jo and board the mini van that our travel insurers had arranged to get us to Nice airport.  We left right on time at 10am and by noon we were in the lounge taking it easy.
Our flight home was broken in Dubai with an overnight hotel stay.  Nice to Dubai is between five and six hours and then you have time for six hours sleep in a real bed before the long stretch to Melbourne and then Auckland.  The flight to Melbourne was assisted by a strong tail wind plus Jeremy’s cassoulet was still producing its legendary motive force so the flight time was down to 13 instead of 14 hours.  I don’t know where the saved time went to because by the time we had spent 45 minutes getting through the security check in Melbourne (don’t let me get started on that topic!) we only had 45 minutes in the lounge before boarding the last sector to Auckland.
That last sector was three hours and went by very quickly.  We landed in Auckland on time at 13h45 and after a short delay waiting for the gate to clear we were on our way through the formalities and to the waiting taxi.  It was 3pm when we arrived home and Darryn was waiting together with Leanne’s Mum & Dad.  My Dad arrived a little while later and we had coffee and cakes while catching up on the news.  It was so nice to be home!
From here we will need to get Leanne’s surgery organised.  We don’t know exactly what that will entail or how long it will all take but I guess that will be another episode.
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Pompeii – A Snapshot From 2000 Years Ago

26 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

With that I will leave you with some photos…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A quiet side street.

A quiet side street.

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

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

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

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

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

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

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

Figures in a bathhouse.

Figures in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

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

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

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

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

Another fast food joint.

Another fast food joint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A small shrine in a private house.

A small shrine in a private house.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Temple of Isis.

The Temple of Isis.

Rome By Day And By Night

25 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doorways and rooms forever...

Doorways and rooms forever…

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

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

Some of the Xmas market stalls in Piazza Navona.

Some of the Xmas market stalls in Piazza Navona.

The front edifice of the Pantheon.

The front edifice of the Pantheon.

Raphael's tomb inside the Pantheon.

Raphael’s tomb inside the Pantheon.

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

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

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

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

The Trevi Fountain at night.

The Trevi Fountain at night.

A night view of Palatino Hill across the Roman Forum.

A night view of Palatino Hill across the Roman Forum.

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

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

Temple of Saturn.

Temple of Saturn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Peter’s Basilica at 10:30pm.

And here is the nighttime version.

And here is the nighttime version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No introduction required...

No introduction required…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A close look at the Arch of Titus.

A close look at the Arch of Titus.

Constantine's Arch with the Colosseum in the background.

Constantine’s Arch with the Colosseum in the background.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just wandering the streets and had to snap this treasure.

Just wandering the streets and had to snap this treasure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Restful Time Back In The Var

2 Dec

After a very full on time last week we have had a very quiet time back at Le Thoronet.  It has been nice to be back ‘home’.

It was a frosty start in Girona, we had to scrape the car windows before heading in to the city to find some breakfast.  Most of the day was spent getting to Sète in France.  The skies were clear but there was the strongest wind I think I have been in.  Driving along the A9 it was a real struggle to hold the lane, the bonnet was flexing all over the place and I wondered if panels would be ripped from the car!  The speed limit is 130kph but even 110kph was really pushing it.  We stopped at a second service area near Fitou that overlooked a large harbour.  The offshore wind was so violent that the bay looked like there was a sandstorm in progress as the water was being whipped up into the air.  We dared not get out out the car for fear that the doors might be torn off as soon as they cleared the latches.  Needless to say the drive was rather tedious and tiring.  Fortunately the road was bone dry.

Heading north on the A9 towards Perpignan just after leaving Spain we managed to stop at a service area that had a good view of the mountains.  If I am not mistaken, Andorra is directly beyond these peaks.  You might just make out the misty appearance of wind blown snow at the summit.  There is no other indication in the foreground of the wind strength - it was not easy to walk around and it was bitterly cold.

Heading north on the A9 towards Perpignan just after leaving Spain we managed to stop at a service area that had a good view of the mountains. If I am not mistaken, Andorra is directly beyond these peaks. You might just make out the misty appearance of wind blown snow at the summit. There is no other indication in the foreground of the wind strength – it was not easy to walk around and it was bitterly cold.

It was too cold and windy to enjoy Sète.  It is probably a delightful place in the summer but right now all we wanted was to have lunch and keep warm.

It was too cold and windy to enjoy Sète. It is probably a delightful place in the summer but right now all we wanted was to have lunch and keep warm.

On Tuesday we drove through a small corner of the Camargue and visited Aigues-Mortes.  We wound our way through the minor roads not in a particular hurry but because it was still so cold and windy we didn’t venture out of the car.

On the way to Aigues-Mortes we spotted these flamingoes on a large shallow estuary.  Even with a 300mm zoom lens they were still too far away for detail, but it gives the idea.

On the way to Aigues-Mortes we spotted these flamingoes on a large shallow estuary. Even with a 300mm zoom lens they were still too far away for detail, but it gives the idea.

Aigues-Mortes is a spectacular walled town on the western edge of the Petite Camargue.  The Camargue area is an expansive wetland at the mouth of the Rhône and as well as being a fertile asparagus and viticultural area, bulls and Camargue horses are reared in the semi-wild and salt is produced here.  [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camargue].  The walls of the city are 1650m long and were completed around 1300AD.  [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aigues-Mortes].

Aigues-Mortes is a spectacular walled town on the western edge of the Petite Camargue. The Camargue area is an expansive wetland at the mouth of the Rhône and as well as being a fertile asparagus and viticultural area, bulls and Camargue horses are reared in the semi-wild and salt is produced here. [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camargue%5D. The walls of the city are 1650m long and were completed around 1300AD. [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aigues-Mortes%5D.

On the inside of the walls at Aigues-Mortes looking out.

On the inside of the walls at Aigues-Mortes looking out.

This view shows about 300m of one side of the Aigues-Mortes walls.  There are many gates to the town and they line up with the streets that already existed when the walls were built.  Hence the walls are not symmetrical.

This view shows about 300m of one side of the Aigues-Mortes walls. There are many gates to the town and they line up with the streets that already existed when the walls were built. Hence the walls are not symmetrical.

We arrived back at Sue’s place in Le Thoronet by 16h00 and tried to keep a low profile as she was busy preparing to go into hospital on Thursday morning for a double hip transplant on Friday.  We caught up with Jeremy and Jo on Wednesday and generally took things quietly.  The weather down here has been surprisingly crisp!  We had -5˚C and -4˚C on Wednesday and Thursday mornings respectively.  Dry but cold to start with clear sunny days that get up to 12~15˚C.  You certainly need the fire going.

Sue's cat Jazz snoozing in the warmest spot in the house.

Sue’s cat Jazz snoozing in the warmest spot in the house.

Being Black Friday in the US and therefore all over the internet, I did manage to score a couple of new photography eBooks very cheaply.  Its always interesting to find out how things are meant to be done!  So I have been doing some reading and some trial and error with the camera.  I was also trying to see if there were any ‘creative’ bones in me rather than just the pedantic technician who is usually to the fore.  These are not especially original shots, but do they work?  You be the judge.

#1 Experimenting with DoF, focus technique and composition followed by a new technique in post-processing.

#1 Experimenting with DoF, focus technique and composition followed by a new technique in post-processing.

#2 Same beehive from another angle but similar techniques.

#2 Same beehive from another angle but similar techniques.

#3 More autumn fun!  Let me know what you think in the comments.

3# More autumn fun! Let me know what you think in the comments.

And that really is about all there is to report without descending into the really mundane like getting the car serviced and grocery shopping!  😉

Now that we are back in the Var we will be staying put most of the time.  That means there will not be much to post so I will try and get a post out every two weeks from now on.  So the next post should be on the 15th December.

Enjoying The Warmth

30 Sep

We have had a fairly busy week enjoying the warm weather while it lasts and spending lots of time catching up with people.  We managed to tick off two places that have been on our list since we first arrived – Cassis and Juan les Pins.  The boat trip around the coastal ‘callanques’ at Cassis was excellent.  And it always helps when the weather is extra nice on the day of course.

The weather was perfect on our visit to Cassis and the water was also flat for our boat trip to see five of the key sights over an hour.

The weather was perfect on our visit to Cassis and the water was also flat for our boat trip to see five of the key sights over an hour.

There were just so many beautiful scenes to photograph - I ended up with 280 photos just from the boat trip.

There were just so many beautiful scenes to photograph – I ended up with 280 photos just from the boat trip.

I would have liked to get more of the reflection in the water but the boat was too close to the cliffs for that!

I would have liked to get more of the reflection in the water but the boat was too close to the cliffs for that!

Back in the port at Cassis and there was still no rest for my shutter finger!  Everywhere I looked there were photos to be taken.

Back in the port at Cassis and there was still no rest for my shutter finger! Everywhere I looked there were photos to be taken.

I grabbed this shot through the locked front gate.  I think it was part of a winery, can't be sure though.

I grabbed this shot through the locked front gate. I think it was part of a winery, can’t be sure though.

By the time we got finished with our walk with Jeremy and Robin on Tuesday it was about 28˚C and we had covered 13km.  By the time we got home and had a quick shower we were 15 minutes late getting to Sabine & Jean-Marc’s place for ‘tea’ at 14h00.  We needn’t have worried because Jeremy & Jo and Robin all arrived after we did.  Only Lew & Jean were on time!  We were treated to tiramisu and chocolate cake.  And so much for tea, out came the pink sparkling wine!  In a flash it was already 18h30!

One especially interesting thing for me was to observe the greeting and departing procedure and especially with the children.  First Sabine & Jean-Marc’s two sons arrived home from school.  They are about eight and twelve I think.  Anyway, they went around the table to greet every person with a light kiss on the cheek.  Then a friend and neighbour of the boys arrived.  She was also twelve or so and she also greeted each of us.  Bear in mind that these children had never ever met Leanne & I before.  Then when the young girl left an hour later she repeated the entire process, no shyness, just very composed.  It was such a nice thing to see and experience.  Of course it is standard procedure with adults but I was surprised at how young the children adopt the protocol and how graciously they perform it.  It possibly also explains why French gatherings last so long – nobody wants to leave first/early because there are so many other people to kiss and shake hands with!

Tuesday's walk with Jeremy and Robin was near Le Muy in an area called 'Les Menhirs Des Terriers'.  Near the top there were a small collection of menhirs thought to be 5~6,000 years old.  They were only discovered in 1991 even though they are located just 5m off the well used track.

Tuesday’s walk with Jeremy and Robin was near Le Muy in an area called ‘Les Menhirs Des Terriers’. Near the top there were a small collection of menhirs thought to be 5~6,000 years old. They were only discovered in 1991 even though they are located just 5m off the well used track.

Here are the menhirs.  The grass had only just been trimmed so the site was very obvious.  I can only imagine that it must have been very heavily shrouded with bushes for it to be concealed until 1991.  It is lucky that the bulldozer that formed the fire track that runs past here didn't demolish them by accident.

Here are the menhirs. The grass had only just been trimmed so the site was very obvious. I can only imagine that it must have been very heavily shrouded with bushes for it to be concealed until 1991. It is lucky that the bulldozer that formed the fire track that runs past here didn’t demolish them by accident.

Not a lot of flowers on the walk but there were a few patches of this small heather.

Not a lot of flowers on the walk but there were a few patches of this small heather.

Yum, chocolate cake.  It has no calories because the pieces of chocolate on the top are all broken!

Yum, chocolate cake. It has no calories because the pieces of chocolate on the top are all broken!

Sabine's lovely tiramisu.  It did not survive the afternoon, with a little help from the boys when they got home from school we finished it all.

Sabine’s lovely tiramisu. It did not survive the afternoon, with a little help from the boys when they got home from school we finished it all.

On Thursday we headed back to Antibes for lunch at Le Vauban.  I probably raved about it last time so I’ll spare you that again.  If you want to know more about lunch, click here.  You were warned!  On the way we visited Juan les Pins…

Juan Les Pins had been on our list for a visit since we first arrived in Provence.  Apparently it was the place to be seen in the sixties. We got free parking on the street right near the promenade. That was the highlight of the place really. It is mainly private beaches and tired looking. BTW, this photo is very flattering!

Juan Les Pins had been on our list for a visit since we first arrived in Provence. Apparently it was the place to be seen in the sixties. We got free parking on the street right near the promenade. That was the highlight of the place really. It is mainly private beaches and tired looking. BTW, this photo is very flattering!

Still in Juan Les Pins, this was the only other photo I took.

Still in Juan Les Pins, this was the only other photo I took.

The RN7 (part of the national highway network) passes through Le Cannet and Le Luc.  We use this section frequently and while I had noticed the derelict garage I had never stopped.  Then we learned last week that this garage was one of the original ones dating back to the formation of the RN7.  It is referenced in the history of the route so it seemed duly respectful to stop and record it myself.

The RN7 (part of the national highway network) passes through Le Cannet and Le Luc. We use this section frequently and while I had noticed the derelict garage I had never stopped. Then we learned last week that this garage was one of the original ones dating back to the formation of the RN7. It is referenced in the history of the route so it seemed duly respectful to stop and record it myself.

I guess this is a WWII relic.  It doesn't look like it has moved for a while.

I guess this is a WWII relic. It doesn’t look like it has moved for a while.

The tall ships festival in Toulon started on Friday and since I was leaving for the Charente on Saturday we had to go on the first day.  It was probably just as well, there were plenty of people there and I imagine the weekend would have been manic.  The weather was hot and a bit humid and although generally fine there were clouds obscuring the mountain tops immediately behind Toulon.  Anyway, we had a very nice time.

Some of the tall ships gathered at Toulon for the 4 day festival.  The 'Alexander von Humboldt II' on the left and 'Belem' on the right.

Some of the tall ships gathered at Toulon for the 4 day festival. The ‘Alexander von Humboldt II’ on the left and ‘Belem’ on the right.

The harbour was getting rather busy at times with various classic boats plus spectator craft.

The harbour was getting rather busy at times with various classic boats plus spectator craft.

The name on this one was in Russian and I have no idea what it was now.

The name on this one was in Russian and I have no idea what it was now.

As well as tall ships there were more people totting DSLRs that I have ever seen in one place.

As well as tall ships there were more people totting DSLRs that I have ever seen in one place.

There were three tall ships lined up along this pier.  It was pretty impressive.  Various ships had visiting times posted but the queues made it a non-starter for us.

There were three tall ships lined up along this pier. It was pretty impressive. Various ships had visiting times posted but the queues made it a non-starter for us.

Looking back up the row of three.  I don't know the name of this one either - it had 'MИP' on its side.

Looking back up the row of three. I don’t know the name of this one either – it had ‘MИP’ on its side.

This ship was at least 200m away (thank goodness for zoom lenses).  I am not doing very well on names again but in my defence there is no name visible on this one anyway.

This ship was at least 200m away (thank goodness for zoom lenses). I am not doing very well on names again but in my defence there is no name visible on this one anyway.

A proposal for the next Americas Cup.  That'll keep the budget in check!

A proposal for the next Americas Cup. That’ll keep the budget in check!

Smaller vessels were lined up right outside the port-side cafés.

Smaller vessels were lined up right outside the port-side cafés.

This church was only 50m from the waterfront and caught our attention in the late afternoon light.

This church was only 50m from the waterfront and caught our attention in the late afternoon light.

Inside the church there no service in progress but this chap was busy with some ritual act at the front.  My only observation was that clergy should probably stick to preaching and leave hairdressing to those who are properly trained.

Inside the church there no service in progress but this chap was busy with some ritual act at the front. My only observation was that clergy should probably stick to preaching and leave hairdressing to those who are properly trained.

On Saturday the weather was quite overcast and again humid – not bad conditions for driving.  We made a brief visit to the puce (flea market) in Le Cannet before coming home for a cooked breakfast.  Then I fired all our stuff into the car which seemed to fit far too easily leaving me wondering what I had forgotten.  Leanne is going to survive the next week or so with just a small backpack of clothes and stuff so she doesn’t have too much to carry when she catches the train to join up with me on Tuesday the 8th of October.  This ‘trial separation’ has come about because housesitting for Sue overlapped with our next job in the Charente (long story…).

I even had time to give the car a long overdue wash before leaving and it had a full tank of diesel yesterday afternoon.  So come 13h30 I was on the road for Toulouse where I was going to spend the night.  471km in 4h20m.  Not bad motoring. I was in my hotel room relaxing by 18h00.  The tolls are heavy though!  It cost a total of €38.80 in tolls and this was only halfway!  My tank of diesel was stretching out well, the gauge only having dropped 3 bars out of 9 plus ‘reserve’.

I set off again at 08h30 the next morning, oblivious to what day of the week it was.  I had decided to try and make it all the way to Fomperron on the one tank.  Driving at 125~130kph with aircon significantly increases the full consumption but it looked OK at the halfway mark so off I went.  I was only 120km from my destination when I noticed that the fuel gauge had dropped suddenly to just one bar left plus ‘reserve’.  This could be close. It dropped to the last or ‘reserve’ bar about 5km short of Fomperron so that was OK.  That was a 463km drive in 4h15m and another €36.10 in tolls. On arriving,  John thought I was pretty brave running so low on fuel but I reckoned I would duck into Saint-Maixent to the supermarket and fill up later in the day, it was only 15km away.  That was when I found out it was SUNDAY!  Everything is closed.  Crap, that was lucky/foolhardy.  I wouldn’t have pushed my luck like that if I had realised that it was Sunday.

I did make it into Saint-Maixent on Monday morning and the 50 litre fuel tank took 48.52 litres!  That’s 1.48 litres left, enough to do only ~30km.

So the summary for the trip was tolls €74.90, fuel €61.04, cheap hotel with breakfast €41, distance 934km, drive time 8h35m, average speed 108.8kph, fuel consumption 4.96 litres/100km (the numbers here don’t yield this figure because I had already done 30km before leaving and 15km after arriving, just in case you decide to check my calculations!) The fuel use is about 10% higher than ‘normal’ driving at 90~110kph.

Just the direct costs were nearly €180 and except for the fact that we needed to get the car up to the Charente for 7 weeks, it makes the trains look like a really good deal (assuming you get the cheaper tickets).  Of course, with two people or more travelling the cost of driving versus using the train improves.

Enough analysis!  The rest of the day was spent just getting acquainted and re-acquainted with things since we did spent a night here with Gaye & John back in July.  In the evening their English neighbours, John & April, invited us for dinner.  They put on a superb spread and we had a very nice evening together.

I will start exploring the area in the next week and there are some jobs that need doing in the garden in light of the autumn weed growth.  If I get forced indoors by the weather John & Gaye have a nice entertainment system and the biggest collection of DVDs and BluRay disks I have ever seen.  I have a copy of the meticulously prepared catalogue so I should be able to find anything that takes my fancy.

Until next time…

After The Hiatus

16 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryn making a point.

Darryn making a point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were there too of course.

We were there too of course.

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

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

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

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

Looking along Red Beach to the SE.

Looking along Red Beach to the SE.

This time looking roughly NE.

This time looking roughly NE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another view of Highwic House.

Another view of Highwic House.

1996 Cranswick Estate Botrytis Semillon, beautiful!

1996 Cranswick Estate Botrytis Semillon, beautiful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impressionists and the Clear Blue Skies of Provence

5 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunflowers and Aqueducts

29 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 70m spire.

The 70m spire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verteuil-sur-Charente

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

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

A small lane in the old city of Cognac.

A small lane in the old city of Cognac.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More traffic control hedges!

More traffic control hedges!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pont Neuf in Toulouse.

Pont Neuf in Toulouse.

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

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

One of the magnificent galleries in the Capitole de Toulouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pont-du-Gard - the red version.

Pont-du-Gard – the red version.

Pont-du-Gard - the pink version.

Pont-du-Gard – the pink version.

Pont-du-Gard - the blue version.

Pont-du-Gard – the blue version.

Pont-du-Gard - the green version.

Pont-du-Gard – the green version.

Pont-du-Gard - the light blue version.

Pont-du-Gard – the light blue version.

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

Summer Heat In France

22 Jul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sunflower looking good.

A sunflower looking good.

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

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

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

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.

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