A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

Memories ....Memories

sunny 11 °C

It was Remembrance Sunday in England yesterday - a sure sign that Christmas is nigh - and we went to the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. We saw the Queen and the rest of the Royals and watched as thousands of ex-servicemen paid their respects at the War Memorial in Whitehall. Here are some of the Chelsea Pensioners...

The French also have much to remember. Languedoc Roussillon may be a long way from the German border, but the inhabitants weren’t spared in either of the World Wars. In the centre of every town and village stands a memorial to the slaughter of men and women for whom the French Republic’s motto of ‘Liberte, Fraternite and Egalite’ meant something worth fighting for. Here is the memorial in Villemoustaussou …

The virginal snow caps on the Pyrenean mountains last week told us that it was time we headed home. Autumn has arrived in the forests of the Montaigne Noire and the mushrooms are sprouting under the oaks and beeches. Here are a few that we could have picked…

But which of these could turn out to be a deadly delicacy?
No problem in France - just take them to the nearest pharmacy. All French pharmacists are experts in identifying edible fungi. So, if you see a young man scurrying furtively out of a pharmacy with a brown paper bag it’s not what you think. It’s probably full of mushrooms that he doesn’t want his neighbours to know about. Mushroom hunting is a lucrative business and gatherers jealousy guard their hunting grounds. But a greater prize awaits under the oak trees of these forests; soon the specially trained dogs and pigs will be nosing their way through the fallen autumn leaves in search of edible gold - the prized black truffle.

The forests of Languedoc Roussillon are at their colourful best at this time of the year and as we walked under the gentle showers of crisp golden leaves we were reminded of the cycle of life and the fact that we too are in our autumn.
As we head home to Canada, via London, we take with us many happy memories of Spain and France. But now it’s time to say goodbye until the next time we board the ferry from our little Pacific Island and head out into this wonderful world for another adventure.

So, “Au revoir” and “Hasta luego” from us and from our delightful granddaughter, Charlie. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

Posted by Hawkson 07:30 Archived in England Comments (2)

Our 100th Anniversary

semi-overcast 15 °C

This our 100th blog entry since we hopped aboard a plane for Bangkok last October and we thought we would amuse you with a few of the photos from our present trip that didn’t quite make the cut.

Norton-St-Phillip, England.
"Hah - Hah! - Look who's got an Audi !"

Tabarca Island, Spain.
Spanish for beginners...

Alicante, Spain.
Jim ... "According to the guidebook it is 2nd Century Roman ..."

Santa Pola, Spain.
"I hate hanging about like this just to get a dance."

Guadelest, Spain.
Thumbs up for this cup....

Cuxac-Cabardes, France.
Sheila .... "It’s your fault Jim. I told you not to argue with the Sat.Nav Gal."

Lagrasse, France.
Sign on door of the "Insomniacs Anonymous" meeting room...

Montolieu, France.
"Sorry Officer. I just thought he was going to pass wind"...

Argeles-sur-Mer, France.
Nudists' beach at Argeles-sur-Mer (On a chilly day).

Elche Market, Spain.
"I don’t know about you two, but I only came in to get my fins trimmed !"

Posted by Hawkson 06:39 Archived in France Comments (2)

Ancient and Modern

sunny 14 °C

As blog followers probably know - we love the really ancient stuff. Give us a medieval village, a ruined castle or a Rod Stewart album, and we are in our element. But we’re not complete Luddites - we have got our own blog!! And we love to fly. So today we went to the factory in Toulouse where the Airbus A380 - the World’s largest airplane - is manufactured.
Visits are by reservation only, but their online reservation site was down - (not a good advert for a company offering to stuff 800 people into a big metal box and drive them halfway around the world). So we took a chance and amazingly arrived just ten minutes before one of the few English language tours of the week. “Zhe reservation is obligatoire,” the check-in clerk said, but after a few minutes on “Standby” we were ushered onto the bus and driven to the main factory.
Here is Sheila on the runway with our guide - Yannique.

We’d love to show you more pictures, but after the Ruskies pinched plans of the Concorde in the ’60’s the French are paranoid about being spied upon.

Anyway, all the bits of an Airbus A380 are actually produced in England, Germany and Spain. The guys in Toulouse just plop all the pieces together and shove in a few rivets. It’s just like Meccano for grown-ups, (for those of you old enough to remember).

With a maximum capacity exceeding 800 and a minimum price tag of 327 million U.S. dollars there is no superlative too over the top to describe this monster. for instance - each of the four engine cowlings have a greater diameter than the fuselage of an Airbus A200.

Our first flight

Our first flight

Here we are lining up for our first trip - but we might queue for a very long time if we wait for Easyjet or Air Canada to get one.

Posted by Hawkson 01:54 Archived in France Comments (0)

Our Cabardes Home

A River Runs Through It ..

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Plan de Ville

Plan de Ville

Cuxac Cabardes

Cuxac Cabardes

The old village of Cuxac-Cabardes is a backwater of solid stone houses in the Black Mountains north of Carcassone. It is quaint, but it lacks the picturesqueness of five-star villages like St. Paul de Vence or Eze near Nice. It also lacks the crush of tourists and flashy entrepreneurs flogging tacky knick-knacks that go hand in hand with such stardom. There is certainly nothing flashy about our baker…
… but he bakes fabulous bread and croissants in a traditional wood fired oven.

Cuxac-Cabardes is a real village of real people, although many of the locals have sold their rustic cottages in the valley and now live in bright modern houses on the top of the hill. Most of the newcomers are summer sojourners who come here for a few weeks from Paris or London and want to avoid the razzmatazz of the pushier resorts that dot the nearby Mediterranean coast. But now, with the vacationers gone until next July, many of the houses are tightly shuttered ….
However, life goes on for the few hundred residents, The clocks on the Mairie and the church tower continue to chime each hour - only five minutes apart - while the mayor and his staff beaver away in their offices. The French are lovers of bureaucracy - they even invented the word - though goodness knows how many bureaucrats it takes to fill a building the size of this Mairie … the town hall ...

Cuxac-Cabardes today is an antiquated riverside village that boasts two bakers, two butchers, a general store, a pharmacy and four sets of incredibly filthy public toilets, (just what do all those bureaucrats do?). But the faded signs on many of the buildings speak of a vibrant past when the village boasted cafés, auberges and a host of other businesses. And the street names tell us that in times gone by this village was renowned for its chestnuts - marrons. Here are some of the beautiful trees near the river…

Autumn Trees in Cuxac

Autumn Trees in Cuxac

Our typical, three storey, village house on the Route de la Foret, retains much of its authenticity and ambience; with low beams, stone fireplace and wooden shutters. Its squeaky floors and narrow winding staircase speak to its age, but it has the necessitates to make us comfortable. We came for two weeks, stayed for three and we will be headed back here as soon as possible. In fact, we’ve signed up as chief cook and bottle-washer on David’s magnificent canal cruiser, the Carmen, for next June - we can’t wait.

Posted by Hawkson 06:49 Archived in France Comments (2)

The Chestnut Lady Cometh ...

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Our delightful neighbour, Arlette, has been popping by every night with bags of chestnuts. But we are Canadian and therefore culturally too damn polite to tell her that we simply can’t stomach another roasted chestnut… ever! So whenever she comes to the door with another bagful we thank her profusely and take them. By last Friday we had so many chestnuts we considered taking a stall at the weekend’s Fete de Chataignier; the annual Chestnut Festival in the nearby village of Villedonnel. But could we compete with these professional roasters?
You can definitely have too much of a good thing. However, despite the fact that all of the roadsides and woodland paths are knee deep in fallen chestnuts this stallholder at the Festival was trying to make a buck.

But chestnuts were not the only local produce at this fall festival. There was bread….

….and , being France, Garlic.

There were all manner of produce and local handicrafts and, of course, the wine for which this region is so famous. Here is the Chevalier de degustation offering us a taste of his late-harvested muscatel.

We had a great afternoon at the chestnut festival, although we turned down many offers of roasted chestnuts.

Now back to the chestnut lady.
Our stock of chestnuts grew daily and we hadn’t the heart to throw them away. Jim’s son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter visited us for a few days last week and returned to Provence with a car full, and future renters of our holiday home may well find them stuffed in cupboards and wardrobes or even under the mattresses. Here’s Friday’s gift …a heap of the freshest, sweetest chestnuts that you will ever taste …


We noticed last week that the supermarkets were selling chrysanthemums in a myriad of beautiful colours, so we bought a huge pot of orangey-red ones as a gift for our chestnut lady. She was absolutely delighted, she claimed, but we wondered why she didn’t put them alongside her other pot plants in front of her house.
“I put them in my garden,” she explained later and we thought no more of it - until ….wait for the punch line …. We went for a walk on Sunday morning and found that every single grave in every cemetery was adorned with a pot of chrysanthemums. Yes, dear reader, Saturday was All Souls Day, the day the French honour their dead by placing chrysanthemums on the graves. Here are some …

So we realised we had committed a major cultural faux pas and had presented Arlette with the equivalent of a funeral wreath, but she was too damn polite to tell us. However, it is now Tuesday and we haven’t had a knock on the door for the past three nights. … alas, the chestnut lady cometh no more.

Posted by Hawkson 07:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

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