A Travellerspoint blog

France

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.
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"Hah - Hah! - Look who's got an Audi !"

Tabarca Island, Spain.
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Spanish for beginners...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elche Market, Spain.
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"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.
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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.
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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 ..

semi-overcast 16 °C

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…
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… 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 ….
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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 ...
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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 ...

semi-overcast 18 °C

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?
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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.
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But chestnuts were not the only local produce at this fall festival. There was bread….
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Cheese
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….and , being France, Garlic.
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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.
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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 …

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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 …
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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)

Location, location, location ...

sunny 22 °C

Estate agents claim that there are only three things that sell a property - Location, location and location. No - we’re not looking to buy property here, (although we could easily be persuaded). It is the numerous ancient castles of this region to which we refer.
But first, a quick history lesson.
This part of Languedoc Roussillon is known as Cathar Country because, about 900 years ago, groups of travelling apostles persuaded many of the locals that the Catholic Church had strayed from the correct teachings of god and that they could only be saved by becoming “Good Christians" again. These “Born Again” evangelicals called themselves “Bon Hommes” or “Good Men” but the Catholics called them Albigensians and sent an army to destroy them. From 1209 to 1229 thousands of Cathars were rounded up and burnt to death in mass executions. However, the Cathars continued to flourish so the Pope introduced the Inquisition whereby specially selected Monks would torture suspects until they admitted their sins and could be lawfully burnt at the stake. After 1244, when more than 200 Cathars were burnt to death on a single fire, many others went underground or fled.

Now - back to the incredible castles of Languedoc Roussillon . During the time of the Catholic crusade against the Cathars, many of the heretics sought refuge in the castles that had been built in the 8th and 9th Centuries to protect France from Aragon, ( now northern Spain - Remember Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine of Aragon?).
Here are a just a few of the many we have seen….

Collioure Castle

Collioure Castle

Chateau de Termes

Chateau de Termes

Peyrepertuse Castle

Peyrepertuse Castle

This one is called Chateau de Queribus - it stands on top of a two thousand foot high mountain.

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The view of the Pyrenees from the top is incredible….

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But back to the bit about the importance of location. Building a castle on a mountain top was a great way to stop invaders from getting in, but, as the Cathars discovered, once the enemy had you completely surrounded they could simply starve you out. Most of the castles were taken by siege and as the starved Cathars surrendered they were led straight to the bonfires. The Catholic inquisitions and burnings continued for nearly a hundred years until the last four suspected Cathars were burnt at the stake in Carcassonne in 1329.
Here is Carcassonne Castle …perhaps the most majestic of them all.

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Posted by Hawkson 09:13 Archived in France Comments (2)

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