Tag Archives: Wind

Sold The Sports Car

3 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence of the high water mark.

Evidence of the high water mark.

Because it was there!

Because it was there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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.

An Epic Road Trip

25 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back towards the Place de la Bourse.

Looking back towards the Place de la Bourse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But San Sebastián does have a nice beach.

But San Sebastián does have a nice beach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plaza del Castillo again.

The Plaza del Castillo again.

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

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

The Town Hall looking great.

The Town Hall looking great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A street view in Pamplona.

A street view in Pamplona.

Another one but more colourful and not atypical in Pamplona

Another one but more colourful and not atypical in Pamplona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The business end of the cathedral in the late sun.

The business end of the cathedral in the late sun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same bridge, different angle.

Same bridge, different angle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sun is gone, just some pink clouds left.

The sun is gone, just some pink clouds left.

Back at the bridge after dark.

Back at the bridge after dark.

And now for something completely different…

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

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

Another instalment in the newly launched park benches series.

Another instalment in the newly launched park benches series.

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

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.

%d bloggers like this: