Micro-adventures and mishaps…. .

We enjoyed a couple of days at Les-Eyzies-Sur-Tayac-du-Soleil staying at the excellent aire on the banks of the River Vezère.  Surprisingly, the aire had plenty of space considering it was a weekend in July.  Les Eyzies is a small town in the Vezère Valley sitting beneath a vast limestone crag.

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Vezere river.

As you can see from the pictures a considerable number of houses have been built into the rock, as is typical of most of the area in the valley.

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Les-Eyzies-Sur-Tayac.

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P1060946.JPGWe embarked on another walk from Lez Eyzies  on Friday 22nd July 2016 which took us out in an easterly direction on the north side of the river.  Even though, for the first couple of miles, the path followed the road, being on foot gave us the time to really appreciate the limestone cliffs with a good view of the remains of troglodytic dwellings.

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Following the road out of Les Eyzies on the north side of the river.

We’d gone prepared for a dip in the water as I wanted to find a wild swimming spot further up the river which was recommended in Daniel Start’s book but when we got to the end of a narrow lane the path leading down to the river was taped off with a Property Privée sign across it so we had to retrace our steps.  Not to be deterred, I suggested to Tim that we try a little ‘micro-adventure’.  I first heard about microadventures when I was trawling the internet on a wet January day looking for some sort of inspiration for a weekend trip with a couple of friends later in the year.  Alistair Humphreys is an author, having written nine books, and a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.  He spent four and a half years cycling around the world on a shoestring budget, at times living on £1 per day.  I have read a couple of his books in the comfort of an armchair which is a much more civilised way to vicariously travel around the world!  I do recommend his books though if you are into that sort of thing.  Anyway, Alistair Humphreys came up with the idea of microadventures as a way for ‘normal’ people, who perhaps don’t have much time, and work 9-5, to make the most of the 5-9 with a microadventure.  Basically, it’s to leave work in the evening and walk/bike/canoe/horse-ride/skate/swim/skip/whatever somewhere and maybe climb a hill with a view and camp overnight, eat al fresco and then get up with the sunrise and return to work the next morning screeching into your seat just before your usual start time (probably feeling grubby and tired but hopefully very happy!)  It doesn’t have to cost much, is a great way to get away from technology and re-acquaint yourself with the the simple pleasures of a natural environment outside of your work and home.  I think it’s a great one for children too as a bit of timeout from technology.  A micro adventure can also just be doing something different for a couple of hours in the great outdoors that you wouldn’t normally do or haven’t done for a long time.   So anyway, again, going back to the original story, I suggested to Tim that we could have a little micro adventure by swimming/paddling/floating back the 3km to the aire.  We could put all our stuff in drybags in our rucksacks and just make our way down the river.  I’m full of suggestions like this which normally get the thumbs down from Tim or just the ‘look’ which says ‘if you want to do it that’s fine but don’t expect me to do it’.  However, for the second time in the last week, Tim surprised me by agreeing!  Mon dieu.  That had me floored!  It’s ok for me as I’m confident in the water but Tim isn’t, so it was a big challenge for him.

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Tim braves a micro-adventure.

I couldn’t get any photos whilst in the water as the camera was tucked away in the dry bags but we made it back to the campsite and Tim even conceded he enjoyed some of it – mostly the bits where he wasn’t out of his depth.

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Safely back exiting the river adjacent to the aire.

He even said he would be up for another trip.  Fantastic, Niagara Falls, in a barrel, here we come!  After all that excitement we had a quiet evening and tried cooking a lasagne on the Cobb.

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Cooking a lasagne on the Cobb.

I think it came out better than if we’d put it in the oven.  So a big thumbs up for the Cobb on that one.

We had a stroll into the village in the evening to see the limestone crag lit up.

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Les Eyzies at night.

We left Les Eysies on Saturday 23rd July 2016 and trundled a few miles down the Vezère valley to the little town of Limeuil at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vezère rivers.

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The River Dordogne at Limuiel.

It’s a great place to have a swim or paddle with a campsite on one side of the river and the village built into the hillside on the other.  We had hoped to stay at one of two aires here but one had closed and the other was chock a block with cars.

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Pottery market at Limuiel.

There was a pottery market on in the town for the weekend which maybe explained the number of cars and people around or it may just be that it is always that busy here, I don’t know.

P1060962.JPGWe wiled away a couple of hours in Limueil before moving on to Tremolat further down the valley.  We parked up at a small aire in the village which happened to be by the village hall.  A birthday party was going on at the village hall with lots of people coming and going.  The organiser came out to let us know there would be quite a bit of noise later but we said that was fine and it wouldn’t bother us.  We were having a very pleasant evening enjoying our favourite sport of people watching when a car reversed into us!  Ah merde, not again!  I’m not sure what it is, the van isn’t exactly small and discrete, but that’s the second person who hasn’t seen it and reversed straight into us.  The driver was probably in his early twenties and very apologetic.  He went off to get his dad who turned out to be the mayor of the village!

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‘Ollie’ gets thumped!

We invited them in to complete a ‘constat amiable d’accident automobile’ which is a jointly agreed statement for insurance purposes as ‘Ollie’ will need a new corner bumper.  Ah well, c’est la vie and all that.  After all that was done we went to bed at about 11.30pm thinking that the party was drawing to a close and how quiet it had all been.  Mmmm, not so.  That was before the disco started at midnight!  By 4.00am, having heard enough Michael Jackson, Queen, The Eurythmics and some other French ‘disco’ music of indeterminate origin, I was beginning to think it would never end.  They finally wrapped it all up at about 4.30am and I managed to get some sleep.  Needless to say, Tim slept through it all!  We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and re-surveyed the damage to the van in the cold light of day.

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Ce ne pas grave!

It’s not serious, it’s just hassle!

We headed towards Bergerac as that is the most likely place we’ll find a garage to repair the van.  We stopped off at Cingle de Tremolat for a magnificent view over the river back to Tremolat and towards Bergerac.

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Viewpoint at Cingle de Tremolat.

As the viewpoint was a ten minute walk from the small car park and not sign posted we had the place to ourselves for half an hour or so.   We sat perched on the rock looking through the binoculars at the kites……….or was it falcons…………..or buzzards soaring above and below us?  I’m not sure.  Let’s just say they were birds of prey.

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View back towards Tremolat.

Little snapshots of time like that make me think of how fortunate we are to be doing what we are.

We stopped at Lalinde for the night which is a reasonable sized town where we’d be able to get some free wifi to start our search for motorhome repairers.

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Monday morning at Lalinde using the Tourist Information Wifi to source a garage to repair the van.

We were the only ones on the aire there until a French van arrived.  Even though we’ve been doing our own French learning we haven’t, as yet, braved talking to any of our neighbours at the aires beyond the odd ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Il fait beau’ so I was delighted when the lady came out and asked if we speak French.  When we said ‘a little’ she encouraged us to have a chat.  Once started there was no stopping me!  They have travelled extensively all over the world so are probably used to plenty of miming. Marcel Marceau has got nothing on us!  They ended up giving us their address and inviting us to stay with them and park our van up on their terrace.  They are probably serial killers but a free night is a free night!  It was great though as we proved to ourselves that we can string a few words together and be understood.  It was good practice anyway for our next challenge of organising the repair to the van.  We also now need a repair done to the habitation door of the van as a plastic bit has fallen off within the mechanism and we can only open the door from the outside!  To cut a long story short (I’m boring myself now), we are awaiting two quotes for the work.

The aire is 3km outside Bergerac with a country park adjacent sporting a lake for swimming.  Très bon!

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The aire at Bergerac next to a huge country park.

It’s a 30 minute walk or 10 minute cycle into Bergerac through the park so is an ideal location to base ourselves until the quotes come through and the insurance company has had time to peruse them.

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Swimming in the lake.

We’ve spent our time over the last few days exploring Bergerac, admin, laundry, shopping and swimming.

 

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Bergerac.
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Interesting B&B in Bergerac.
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Next to the Dordogne in Bergerac.

Our next plan, once we have a quote approved, is to get the van booked in for the repair which is likely to be in two weeks time at the earliest.  We are planning a cycle adventure with the tent and bikes whilst the van is being repaired as it’s likely to take 3-4 days to do.

They say all things come in threes which seems to be the case this week as I also broke a tooth whilst eating a peanut this week.  On enquiring at the Tourist Information in Bergerac about a list of dentists I was left with the impression that I’d never, in a month of Sundays, be able to see a dentist as they will all be either too busy or on holiday.  I struck lucky though with the first one I tried.  I walked in and explained the problem and he saw me straight away, filed down the jagged edge which was shredding my tongue and has booked me in to see him next week for a proper repair. Pas de problem!

Un bon weekend, toute le monde:)

 

 

Happy, lazy days in the Vezere valley… .

Since my last blog update we have been ambling at a very slow pace.  We moved on from Brantome on Thursday 14th July 2016 after having spent three nights there.  We had a mooch around the very pretty St. Jean de Cole, 20km north east of Brantome. It is ranked as one of the prettiest villages in the Dordogne and it didn’t disappoint.

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St Jean de Cole.

Beyond the central square, medieval houses cluster together cheek by jowl down narrow alleyways.

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Tres tranquille!

As always in France, the flowers and pastel painted shutters create an air of relaxed calm and tranquillity.

P1060763.JPGDespite it being the middle of July the village was extremely peaceful with a free aire a two minute walk away.

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St. Jean de Cole’s 11th C church.

Even though the aire was free at St. Jean de Cole we opted to retrace our steps through Brantome and continue further on to Bordeilles which we had inadvertently stumbled across on our walk the previous day. 

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River Dronne at Bordeilles.

The aire at Bordeilles sits on the banks of the river Dronne and covers two large fields with plenty of shade and space to spread out.  The weather had heated up again to the top twenties which was why, we discovered later, we had the second field to ourselves as all the intelligent people were parked up under the shade of the trees.   

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Oh look, we have the whole field to ourselves.

Still, we don’t get weather like this very often in the UK so we thought we’d best make the most of it. We spent a very pleasant evening slowing cooking in the sun playing scrabble in French!  Needless to say, that game didn’t last very long. 

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French Scrabble – we’re off to a flying start!

As part of the Bastille Day celebrations we did make the effort, this time, to go and see the fireworks. 

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Fireworks in Bordeilles on Bastille Day.

I found a very quiet spot on the river, a few minutes from the aire, to go for a swim but was quite shocked at how cold the water was. 

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Blimey, that’s colder than I thought it would be!

The water in the River Charente a few days before had been cold but not cold cold but the water at Bordeilles was cold cold cold cold cold!  However, swimming ‘au natural’ (by that I mean in nature not sans costume!) in such a beautiful river, with views of the chateau, and an occasional passing canoe was another big tick on my bucket list.  That’s two ticked off already – only another 200 odd to go!

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Not so bad once you’re in though.

In the spirit of living a more active lifestyle we rode our bikes the 11km to Aldi in Brantome.  Now we have the time to spend two or three hours on the weekly shop it makes sense to go on the bikes when we can as long as it all fits in two panniers each. 

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An Aldi outside the small town of Brantome – excellent!

In truth, the 22km round trip was more or less flat.  I don’t think it would go down too well with Tim if a soiree to the supermarket on the bikes involved too much altitude.  

At Bordeilles, we were really getting into a routine of breakfasting al fresco, learning French al fresco, biking alfresco, swimming al fresco and cooking on the Cobb al fresco whilst watching the sun set, naturally, al fresco!  I have dreamt of days such as these!

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Lunch al fresco.
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A bike ride in the surrounding countryside.
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Takes your breath away!
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I never thought Tim would go in too!

Having spent four nights at Bordeilles, though, we felt ready to move on.  We were going to stop at Perigueux, capital of the Dordogne, but it was sooooo hot we decided a very busy town was not where we wanted to be at that moment.  So after refuelling with diesel and LPG, followed by a cheeky trip to Lidl, we made our way to Montsignac.

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Monsignac.

 The aire had been recommended to us by a Welsh chap we met in Cognac.  It’s €5 per night which includes electric hook up and water and is a few minutes stroll into the town and down to the river.  Montignac is in the valley of the River Vezère. 

P1060846.JPGThe town, most of which is medieval, is set on both sides of the Vezère river.  It is famous for the Grotte de Lascaux, a deep cavern covered with paintings of animals, discovered in 1940 by four boys who stumbled across it. 

The paintings were created by the Cro-Magnon people 17,000 years ago and are among the finest example of prehistoric art in existence.  The original cavern was opened to the public in 1948 but, due to the deterioration of the paintings from the breath of over a million visitors, it was closed in 1963. So the saying ‘he could strip paint with his breath’ is true! 

A replica, Lascaux II, was painstakingly created by twenty artists and sculptors, using the same techniques and materials as the Cro-Magnon people, 200m away and opened in 1983. That too has now been superseded by Lacaux IV. 

We spent our time in Montsignac moseying around all the back streets seeking out interesting buildings and I rounded off the day with a swim, at dusk, in the river.  The river flows pretty fast which meant swimming against the flow was nigh on impossible without considerable effort.  Therefore, the best policy was for me to drift down the river a mile or so, past all the evening diners eating foie gras, hoping no-one would notice me (unlikely) and for Tim to meet me just beyond the bridge.  Excellent.  

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You can just see a speck in the river……………………that’s me!

We only stayed the one night in Montignac before moving on down the valley to the delightful village of St. Léon sur Vezère. 

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The beautiful St Leon sur Vezere.

The weather was in the mid thirties by this time and, once again, all the intelligent people parked their vans under the trees facing away from the direct heat of the sun.  We, on the other hand, parked where there was the least amount of shade with our side door facing directly into the evening sun.  We’ll maybe learn at some point in the future, once we’ve crisped up a bit more, but we appear to be very slow learners! 

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There was shade at mid-day but we cooked after that on gas mark 9!

For all our swimming exploits we have loosely been following Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming, France book to give us ideas on where might be accessible, safe and interesting for a swim.  St. Léon sur Vezère was listed in the book and we found a nice spot away from all the crowds a further mile or so up the river.

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Perfect paddling on the River Vezere.

It had cooled down with some cloud cover by Wednesday 20th July 2016 so we cycled along the southern side of the river towards Tursac which afforded some fabulous views over the valley and the surrounding countryside. 

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Views towards La Roque St. Christophe.
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Views above the River Vezere.

We stopped at La Roque St. Christophe not knowing what to expect.  It takes a lot to impress me but even I have to admit my jaw dropped at the sight of this enormous troglodytic city.  It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site.  Humans settled here, in the natural caves created in the limestone cliff face, over 55,000 years ago.  Multi storey dwellings sat in the rock face 80 metres above the Vezère river. 

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Troglodytic village at La Roque St. Christophe.

The ‘city’ is over 1km long.  Although we don’t tend to ‘do’ tourist attractions per se I have to admit this was worth the €8.50 each we paid to go in.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Hopefully they give a sense of the vastness of it. 

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It is jaw dropping.

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Apparently all the machines are in working order.

P1060893.JPGWe cycled on the road running underneath the city giving us a view of the little people above.

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The road below La Roque St. Christophe.
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Looking up at the ‘little people’.

We crossed the bridge to take a picture from the north side of the river whilst enjoying the sunflowers swaying in the breeze. 

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The sunflowers aren’t all out yet but they will be spectacular when they are.

We continued on and found an interesting spot for a swim under the limestone cliff.  This was a step too far for Tim as the water was murky, deep and was a likely home, in his mind, for flesh eating aquatic things! 

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This picture was taken before a flotilla of canes came past.

In all, the cycle was only about 16km but with all our stops, detours and the many sights to take in it felt longer.

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Geese destined for the foie gras market!
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La Maison Forte De Reignac, a chateau built into the rock in the 15th Century.

We have now moved on a whopping 15km further down the valley to Les-Eysies-de-Tayac at another aire on the riverside.  The welcome en France to motorhomers continues to inspire!

Happy Friday everyone:)

Je m’en vais!

The Dordogne beckons…. .

We are having a bit of a holiday at the moment!  We arrived in Cognac on Friday 8th July 2016 and ended up staying until Monday afternoon.

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Cognac.

We spent the Friday afternoon and evening wandering around the old town and relaxing listening to all the free fringe music going on around the annual Blues Festival.

P1060589.JPGDespite the Blues Festival Cognac town was pretty quiet.

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Bijoux residence:)

Iggy Pop was playing on the main stage but at €50 a ticket for the evening set of concerts we gave it a miss. Instead we enjoyed these guys who were great fun playing all sorts from Blues to Jazz to Funk.

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I’m sure it was Dara O’Briain on the Sousaphone?

I’m sure Darah O’Briain was playing the Souzaphone?  We then wandered up to the top of the town which was buzzing with people but the music was of the ‘you’ve heard one, you’ve heard the all’ kind so we didn’t stay long. 

 

 

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Free music but we didn’t stay long!

Saturday was a walking day both up and down the river.

P1060620.JPGAround the walking we had a lazy day catching up on admin.

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A lazy day walking along the river banks!

We were able to pick up very fast free wifi from a restaurant across the river which was a bonus as I was able to upload the last blog post from there.

 

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It’s not all play you know, this blog doesn’t update itself!

We took our chairs down to the riverside for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Très civilised!

 

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Breakfast.
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Lunch.
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Dinner.

The temperatures were in the top twenties on Saturday and Sunday which is significantly warmer than we have had so far.  In view of the hot weather Tim donned his Speedo’s on Sunday and braved a swim in the river.

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Not without his water wings though in the form of our Thermarest sleeping mats!  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon with pleasant views of a chateau across the river.

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Pleasant views of a chateau across the river.
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Mmm, note to self, I must brave it and get a hair cut some time soon!

We went to a local bar to watch France play in the final of Euro 2016.

 

 

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Before the match started.
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The same scene 30 seconds after Portugal scored!!

We decided to hire a canoe on Monday and have a paddle down the Charente. We were dropped 17km further up the river at Jarnac, birthplace of Francois Mitterand, and had a very relaxing paddle back to Cognac.

 

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Des Res!

On Monday we moved on further south into the Dordogne and have been staying at Brantome which is a very pretty town dominated by the Abbey on the banks of the river Dronne.

 

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Brantome – very pretty.

The aire is a five minute walk into the town and costs just over £5 per night.

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Brantome.

Brantome is the most touristy town we’ve been to so far I think but considering it’s the middle of July when most of the French take their annual summer holiday it’s not too overbearing.

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More pretty French streets!

We had a walking day on Wednesday.   I’d picked up a leaflet from the tourist information office of a 12km circular walk starting in Brantome.  I’d paid 50c for the leaflet and had spent half an hour translating it so I was determined we were going to do it.  It took us out of town following the flow of the river Dronne and into the surrounding countryside.

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An old mill on the banks of the Dronne, now a B&B.

The map itself wasn’t too brilliant but we seemed to be making progress and arrived at a pretty viewpoint over the river after two hours which was perfect for a lunch stop.

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Lunch stop.

After lunch things didn’t go according to plan as the map wasn’t particularly clear and the written instructions were a bit on the sparse side.  We eventually arrived in the lovely village of Bordeilles which was in the opposite direction of where we wanted to be and an 11km walk back to Brantome. Doh!

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Uber pretty Bordeilles.

I went into the tourist information to ask if there was a bus service to Brantome and she replied with ‘Je pense pas’ (I think not) but what her eyes and body language actually said was ‘do you really think there is going to be any public transport from such a small village as this in such a rural area of France?  Are all you Anglaise so stoopide?’ Oh, ok, that’ll be a no then, we just thought we’d ask on the off chance like!  There was only one thing for it but to bite the bullet and retrace our steps.

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Bordeilles.

That was before Tim came up with his cunning plan.  Cue drum roll.  ‘Let’s see if we can hitch a lift’ he said!  To his surprise I agreed but only on the condition that he used his own thumb and not mine.  With that agreed, out went said thumb, and lo and behold the third car that passed us stopped to pick us up.  Yay!

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View of Bordeilles from the top end of the village.

It was a middle aged French lady who’d taken pity on us.  She was a game girl to stop as we could have been anyone and she didn’t know Tim was armed with a Swiss Army penknife!  Mind you she probably thought she was quite safe when we insisted on buckling up our seat belts before she drove off though!  My francais was tested to the limit telling her why the ‘stoopid anglais’s’ needed a lift.  She wasn’t going into Brantome so we asked her if she could drop us back at the bridge where we’d had lunch and we would walk from there.

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It was still a long walk back despite our lift!

It saved us over an hour’s extra walk and was an experience but we still had a two hour walk back to the van.  Ah well, it’s not like we had anything pressing to get back for!  We eventually arrived back at the van over two hours later than planned – c’est la vie.

Later on in the evening we had a stroll into Brantome to watch some river jousting as part of the Bastille Celebrations.

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River jousting as part of the Bastille celebrations.

In truth, it was a bit dull, to say the least, and we were bored after 15 minutes so didn’t stay for the further 1hr 45 minutes it was scheduled to go on for.  We retired to the van to read our books! Très rock ‘n’ roll. We slept through the fireworks!

We played it safe on Thursday and went to the local lavomatique, a 5 minute stroll from the aire, to do our laundry (obviously)!

P1060720.JPG  It’s the first time we’ve had to use a public laundrette as we’ve been able, until now, to do all our washing when either House sitting or Helpxing.

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It’s lucky we’re not precious about our clothes – everything goes in together regardless of colour!

We haven’t been able to get any reliable free wifi where we are staying and the mifi in the van is really temperamental at the moment.  I did have more to say in this post but, in view of the fact it has taken me an hour and a half sitting on a hard bench outside a hotel, using their very slow free wifi to upload the photos, I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead and get this uploaded!

A toute de suite!

 

 

Another successful Helpx assignment comes to an end.. .

So, after our three day mini-break in Coulon we headed back to Ralph and Sue’s near Secondigny for another week to help with a few other jobs that needed doing.  Monday and Tuesday saw Tim and Ralph making a start on the fencing in the top field where the horses will eventually go.

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Three months ago Tim wouldn’t have been able to lift that hammer!!!

I did a bit of raking out and clearing of all the vegetation ready for the posts to go in.

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Happy with power tools again.

Tim and Ralph did all the hard graft!  The farmer next door came and cut both fields this week and twirled the grass ready for baling later in the week.

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Not sure what that tool is called –  a fence post banger inner maybe?

I had a lovely couple of days on Tuesday and Wednesday being principal tour guide to Ralph’s sister Pat, and brother in law Alan, who were staying for a week or so.  As Ralph and Sue were busy with the animals and various different jobs Pat, Alan and I went out for a couple of days to tour the area.  It coincided with an improvement in the weather which made for a pleasant couple of days perfect for strolling and quaffing coffee at cafes!   I can add Tour Guide to my CV now which has always looked pretty sparse!

I also enjoyed taking some of the doggy residents out for their daily walks.  A little apricot poodle, which reminded me of Fluffles, the poodle on the Wallace and Gromit film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, was my favourite!

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The apricot poodle staying with Sue reminded me of Fluffles.

Finally on Wednesday and Thursday Tim helped Ralph create a second dog run in the garden for the unsociable canine residents that can’t be trusted to mix with the gang on the other side of the fence!

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Second dog run up and, err, running!

Sue and I cut the grass in the polytunnel with push along lawn mowers.  I haven’t used one of those since about 1979!  That was hard work and gave me blisters but is a better work out than paying to go to a gym!  The petrol lawn mower flings out too much shrapnel which would have potentially shredded the walls of the polytunnel though.

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Our next door neighbour in Trowbridge still uses one of these!

We rounded our stay off with a trip to a local bar to watch France hammer Germany 2-0 in the semi final of Euro 2016.

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Gooooaaaaaaaalllllll!
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Tim now seems to think he is French!

Parfait!  Allez les bleus!

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So, with France safely in the final, our Sunday nights entertainment is now sorted out!

We said au revoir to our hosts and their guest’s yesterday morning with our heads filled with plans of moving into the Dordogne area.  We are in no particular rush as we haven’t, at the moment, got any more Helpxing or Housesitting  gigs lined up.  (Tim could do with a rest after all the real man’s work he’s been doing in the last three months.  He is looking more like a racing snake with each passing day!)

We drove 100km to stop at Cognac which is famous for, umm, Cognac.  Our visit here has coincided with the annual Blues Festival and we managed to bag one of the five spaces on the free aire next to the river just as another van was leaving.  Result!

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The Aire at Cognac just between the flags – 5 minute walk into town.

Life doesn’t get better than this!

Bonne Journée:)

A quick flit to Venice for the weekend….. .

We had another mini break from work at the weekend and headed down to the Venise Verte (Green Venice).  It’s situated in the Marais Poitevin area of Poitou-Charente which is the second largest wetland in France.  We parked up for the weekend at an Aire in Coulon, known as the capital of the Venise Vert,  on the eastern edge of the Marais Poitevin.

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Sevre river at Coulon.

The area is criss-crossed by a system of canals lined by willows and poplar trees .

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Coulon.

The canals are essential to control the water levels in the region.  Coulon itself sits on the banks of the Sevre Noitaise river and is a very pretty village with much character and charm with waterside frontage lined with restaurants, galleries and fishermen’s cottages.

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Coulon Centre Ville!

Boats and canoes can be hired to explore the many canals nearby.

It’s a really lovely tranquil spot conducive to doing not much of anything.  However, if Tim thought he was in for a lazy weekend by the river he was sorely mistaken!  We couldn’t come to this area without exploring it by bike as this really is the best way to see it if you are tight like us and don’t want to pay the extortionate fee to hire a boat!

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Pretty houses line the banks of the Sevre.

The area is as flat as a pancake though so Tim needn’t have worried – wait till we get to the Alps and then see the fear on his face!

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Tres belle maison.

We had a very leisurely tootle around and about on the bikes taking in the lovely stone cottages lining the river and the little tiny holiday shacks which would have done us as our main residence.

P1060485.JPGWe went out at the quietest time in France, between 12.00pm and 2.00pm, when everyone was having lunch which meant lovely car free roads and tracks for miles.

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Little holiday homes – we could live in one all year round!
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Holiday Gite available to rent.

We stopped and had a stroll around Arcais which is a very old and interesting village with a mix of derelict and renovated houses crammed in down little alleyways and lanes.

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Arcais.
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Lots of interesting places in Arcais.

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We didn’t know it when we planned on visiting Coulon that the Fête du Miget was being held over the weekend right next to the aire.  The fete is a celebration of all the old traditions of the area with demonstrations and exhibitions depicting traditional farming methods, schooling, washing, rope making etc.

P1060498.JPGIt kicked off at 2.30pm and was a really good afternoons entertainment. Oh, and free!

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Traditional schoolroom.

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A big part of the day was a three course set evening meal served on long trestle tables.

P1060536.JPGA quick flick through my French-English dictionary revealed the main dish was stuffed eels………………err, mmm,  hmpf I think I’ll give that a miss then!  The finale to the days activities was a parade of traditional boats skippered by people in traditional costume.

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P1060535.JPGMy favourite was the goat boat but if those goats got a bit restless it could have been ugly.

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Goat boat!

On Sunday we called in at Niort with its medieval houses and buildings.

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Niort.

We were able to have a stroll around the 19th Century Market Hall made out of glass and steel and quite impressive.

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Niort’s 19th Century glass and steel market hall.

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It was all very lively in Niort for a sunday.

Niort had a cosmopolitan feel to it and the new blended well with the old.

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Finally, on our way back to Sue and Ralphs we stopped for a mooch around Parthenay.  We weren’t too impressed to start with as it looked a bit neglected and run down but we soon found the attractive 15th and 16th century medieval part of the town and the castle whereby we quickly changed our minds!

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Parthenay’s old town.

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13th Century fortified gateway to old Parthenay.

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We have decided to stay on a little longer with Ralph and Sue to help them get some fencing done before their next pair of helpers arrive from Russia no less!

Bonne Soirée.