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Back through France

From Hendaye, we continued up through France to Vouvray, just east of Tours on the north bank of The Loire. Traffic was not too busy but busy enough around Bordeaux. Sharon did  nearly commit murder in a service station en route!  I’d gone to the loo and left her looking out over our car parked in front of the café when a car pulled in and slammed their door into ours! Not being shy – Sharon darted out to catch the woman responsible before she left, but she (the door slamming, evil criminal) managed to evade Sharon’s wrath by backing out of the space and driving back on to the motorway, pretty quick sticks! We were left with a dinted door.30161183796_7e9823d524

The sun shone throughout the afternoon, but by the time we arrived at our Chambre d’Hote just outside the village, it had become chilly and we were glad of our Lidl ‘extras’. In Hendaye, it had been so cold that we had looked around for warmer clothing and found a tracksuit for me and a long sleeved shirt for Sharon in a Lidl just around the corner from our hotel.  As I say, thank goodness for those Lidl ‘extras’.

We walked into Vouvray twice while we were there; a 4.5-mile round trip each time. The first time was to explore the village (it’s tiny) and the second time to find food; there are several places – but we had to find them. Whilst there, we checked out one of the Caves and made some essential purchases. We ate at La Scala.

After a comforetable breakfast we continued our journey up through France to Boulogne. It being Saturday, we expected more traffic but the roads remained quiet and uneventful for the entire journey. Although we’ve visited the area around Abbeville lots of times, we’ve never been to Le Crotoy (and there’s quite a bit of mention in Bernard Cornwell’s book – Harlequin – which I’ve just read) so we called in there for lunch (I had a bucket of mussels!). We will certainly try to visit again, it looks lovely.img_7321

Our Boulogne Chambre d’Hote was right in the middle of the old town, yet we were (just) lucky enough to grab a parking space not too far from our bed. Our room was on the first floor and huge. The windows overlooked the town hall square, where this year they had planted a sensory garden. Well done Boulogne once again.

The Sunday roads in England were also surprisingly quiet. The M20, the M25 and then the M11 were a breeze. So setting off from Boulogne at 8.30am French time to catch a 9:50am train (on time) we were home for 3:00pm UK time.  Not too shabby.

September Sojourn

Travelling through and from the UK these days, seems to be a trial of a pleasure. We set off on Friday, about 12:30pm and arrived in Gravesend at around 19:15pm – far too long a journey for such a relatively short journey. We had expected some short delays because it was Friday afternoon – but this was shocking.

We stayed at a Premier Inn just outside Gravesend, on the A2.  It was ok, the pub next door, The George, seemed to have a reasonable plastic menu and my noodle dish was fine. The beer was London Pride, served as the locals like it – flat and headless.

Now it’s Saturday morning and after not much sleep and getting up at 04:15am, we’re sat on the Eurotunnel car park waiting for our connection – which has been delayed by two hours due to a train ‘being stopped’ in the tunnel. The train before our planned 06:50am departure seems to have got away and ours was the first to be delayed.  Grrrr.
IMG_6883Once we eventually get to France, the plan is to make it to the Hotel Campanile, Poitiers Sud – hopefully that will be possible in time for some food, beer and sleep.

We eventually got under way about 09:00am, arriving in France before ten and shooting off down the motorway. The weather was fine (increasingly) all the way to Poitiers, but there were the odd delays as major lengths of road were under repair. Something to remember about trips through France in September?

Our final trial for today was that the exit we needed for our hotel was closed!  We knew early enough to detour, but there were so many roads under repair around the north of Poitiers that we missed the correct turning and ended up having to drive through the city itself. Then, the hotel is disguised. What as I cannot say, but it took us over half an hour to find, even though the SatNav said ‘you have reached your destination’! (Pics later when WiFi is better)

In France

Our drive up from Saragossa (Zaragoza) has taken two days (which were planned).  We’re at Billy and Angela’s place now near Roussines in France.

The bit where we drive over the Pyrenees to Pau was supposed to be scenic and beautiful, but the weather was a bit unsettled to say the least.  Spain must sit a good bit above this part of France as there was a lot more ‘down’ from the Spanish Tunnels than there was ‘up’.  The torrential rain made some of the journey quite scary (bends etc.) and the same didn’t help when it came to looking for our late lunch in Pau. We were allowed to park in the hotel car park before we booked in and at that time, the sun was shining, but as we sat for lunch in a very busy restaurant (we’d moved on from Two saladsyet another very busy restaurant because outside rain was dripping from the brolly AND people were smoking), it started again in earnest.

We asked to move tables (one had just come free under the canape) but the waiter said “non” with a quite serious expression. I thought he was joking, but he then proceeded to say something which my poorly educated ‘French’ ears interpreted as “of course not, the kitchen has your order and table number“.  At exactly the point at which I’d formed the French to say (I paraphrase of course) “then stick it up your posterior and bring me the bill“, he saw that we had in fact NOT ordered yet and rather sulkily grabbed our drinks and commanded “allez” as he sashayed himself inside the bar and sat us at a table there. It had taken some time to get our drinks and now it took some time to get our food, but (and I MUST say this) the food was delicious and plentiful – so much so that we didn’t eat again that day.

Pau may well be worth another visit, the bit of it we saw was OK and interesting, but with so many places closed for holiday and the weather being AWFUL, it rather spoiled our visit. We woke early on Friday for the last leg of this stage of our journey.  The weather had upgraded from awful to ATROCIOUS!

The entire journey was plagued with torrential rain.  Even when we got to Roussines, the rain was still persisting.  This made the house feel quite cold, so we set off for a supermarket to buy warm clothes (we’d packed in +34° heat and not given a thought to changing weather). One of the beauties, and one of the main reasons for breaking our journey in this way, is so that we can cook for ourselves and eat normally. Some of the portions we’ve eaten this week, driving back have been huge and, more meaty than usual. Neither of us are or want to be non-meat eaters, but we don’t eat much meat and often don’t have any at all. Our first meal at Billy and Angela’s was such a meal: Spanish Omelette and Salad.

Today’s will be different – it’s Sharon’s birthday.

Setting off

As stated in the itinerary’15, our 2015 summer holiday plans include a trip through France and Germany to explore the Romantic Road, Bavaria and the Alsace – with a week long stay along Bodensee. It will be a road trip, accompanied by Joanne (Sharon’s sister) and Mike (Joanne’s husband). Joanne speaks German fluently, so that will help.

Edeficio Alessandra

In April, Sharon and I went to Spain and stayed at the apartment for just over a week, which was just perfect. The weather was good to us and it was great for me, after my trip to Indiagot to keep moving :-).

We managed to eat at Las Islas a couple of time, something we’d been unable to do on previous visits, because they close from October to Easter and out visits have been over winter.

We’re currently in Catterick and will set off tomorrow morning to drive down the A1/A11 etc. to Folkstone and then on the EuroTunnel to Calais, where we will stay Saturday night. More from me later, as we go along.

Paris – home now

So, we went for a short walk around our area on Tuesday evening, had a nice pizza in a local restaurant and went into the city centre via Metro. All as planned.

We had been quite lucky, having an apartment so close to everything, especially the Metro.

Just a short walk and we were on the 6 train that goes north to ‘Charles de Gaulle-Étoile’, in fact the Arc de Triomphe, at the head of the Champs-Élysées. It is certainly a colourful experience, walking down this main thoroughfare, with all the shops lit up, along with the monuments and the red and bright lights of the traffic. What surprised me most was the amount of down market establishments present (McDonald’s, Starbucks etc.) alongside the more salubrious joints.

It was colder now than it had been all week, not as cold as it is here at home now, but chilly. That led to a brisk walk back down towards the river and us half way to our temporary home. The river was very busy and even prettier than the Champs Élysées. The Bateaux Mouches were lit up like Christmas and cruising up and down the river, under many of the lit-up bridges. A really pretty sight.

We continued home by walking along the bottom end of the Champs de Mars and then following the Metro line to our street. We had our last drink in Paris sat outside the bar on the corner: 1 pastis + 1 Perrier = €9.40!

So, what will I remember most about Paris, and perhaps recommend to others? [Flickr Album]

  • Les Invalides
    – Although occasionally free (out of season) it’s well worth paying the entry fee to take a look around this museum and mausoleum. The gardens surrounding it are free. Just look for the golden dome.
  • Coulée Vert
    – Starting just south east of Place Bastille, the walk along this old railway line takes you above various parts of the city – where you can see some of the art deco/nouveau architecture up close, through small housing estates and parks – almost as far as Chateau Vincennes – which is well worth the extra mile or so.
  • Eiffel Tower
    – Being just around the corner made it easy for us to be there quite early (10:30am ish) and to avoid the massive queues that build up. If you can purchase tickets online (book early) do so – otherwise come early. We had a short 20 minutes wait queuing to get tickets and then to enter the tower. Go to the very top for magnificent views. It’s a must.
  • Sacré Coeur
    – Various Metro routes and stops will place you at the bottom of the hill from Sacré Coeur. Take the funicular up the hill if you must, but the walk through the gardens is worth the effort. The views from the top are superb and the proximity to Montmartre make this visit worth planning a full day.  
  • Walking
    – We simply planned a Metro stop, got out and walked. There’s so much to see in and around Paris that you can do much of it on your own. If you need more information about the city – take a guided walk. This is how we found The Louvre, The Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, the river and so on. Simply walk – and look UP.

Back now 🙂

Paris – Tuesday

Architecture

We spent today, mostly walking along the Promenade Plantée (Coulée Verte).

This is an excursion into the real Paris – of Parisians. We took the Metro to Bastille and knowing roughly where the walkway started, made our way towards Avenue Daumesnil and there is is – a long viaduct upon which you meander as far as Boulevard Peripherique.

Well, not quite, from time to time you have to descend and walk through housing and along routes not quite as obvious as they should be. It was interesting nevertheless to see into bck gardens and to get eye-level views of the architecture. Around Gare de Lyon, there was some quite superb statuary. Despite the slight lack of signage here and there, we did manage to plot our way right up to the Peripherique and then under that as far as the Bois de Vincennes.

The walkway seems to have passed beneath the motorway at one time but not now. My advice to anyone wanting to make a day of this trip – is to take picnic, or when you get to Saint-Mandé (just the other side of the motorway (we turned left – but it depends where you get across) buy yourselves some sandwiches and a drink. The ‘Bois’ isn’t far away and even nearer are two pleasant lakes – we stopped by the Lac de Saint-Mandé.

We then made our way north a little and found the Château de Vincennes. This is the end of Metro line 1, so we knew we could get back easy enough. They seem to be doing an awful lot of reconstruction here, so it’s well worth a visit again. We didn’t visit the Donjon itself, but you could (@ €8.50 each) – and there’s plenty of room around, or across the road for that picnic.  Just take the yellow Number 1 Metro line to the very end.

Tonight, it being our final night in Paris, we intend to eat locally and to then take a Metro trip to the top of Champs-Élysées. We’re told that a walk down here, once the sun has gone down is well worth the trip. So – well see!

Gibraltar

I probably won’t be allowed to call this last week a holiday: There’s a chance that a holiday will be taken later in the year, but that depends on lots of things (like finding something we both like and agree on, and having the time to search).

We’ve been in Alcaidesa, southern Spain for four nights and spent earlier three nights in Gibraltar.

We were there to attend and to celebrate Michelle’s marriage to James. Michelle is John and Carol Taylor’s daughter and she met James while serving in the Royal Navy, whilst posted to Gibraltar. James is a Captain in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. Michelle fell in love with the man and the area and managed to get herself posted there (semi)-permanently. She’s recently taken redundancy due to re-posting/cut backs and will stay on to study nursing at degree level (she should probably be the teacher, but despite all of her experience she has to attend a degree course).

Anyway: we were there with my brother Andrew and his girlfriend Debbie who just happen to be visiting us from their home in Australia. We had booked ex-army accommodation (via Michelle) in Gibraltar to keep the costs down, and a wonderful apartment in Alcaidesa – which isn’t necessarily the cheapest.

In Gib, we met other friends who were also attending the wedding (to bolster Michelle’s half of the church 😉 ) Graham and Sue; Jim and Yvette; Alan and Roberta; Debbie and Ian; Susan and Terry; David, Gail and Natalie (who had travelled all the way from Thailand to attend her cousin’s wedding).

We’ve never stayed overnight in Gib before so it was interesting to see it go through different cycles of a day. We’d always seen it as busy, busy, busy; but actually, it does go very quiet; the tourists go back to their hotels and cruise ships and the town goes quiet – many pubs closing earlier than you’d think. However, it is a constant buzz of noise with new buildings going up, old buildings coming down, roads being repaired etc. Every morning and throughout the day we saw streets being cleaned and paths being swept. I don’t remember seeing a beggar (unlike Cadiz later). tbc …