I’ve started using dates in the attempt to keep track of what has happened, when. You may be confused by that, but the places are more interesting than the dates, of course. The countryside is often a bit drier now.
28 MAY 2023
A nearby, beautiful ancient hilltop town
‘Our’ home village for a month – a walk around it doesn’t take long. It is very quiet, and no boulangerie (bakery). There is evidently a chateau (castle) but we can’t find it.
27 MAY 2023
St Quentin-la-Poterie is a potters’ town and so there are many galleries exhibiting ceramics. The day was perfect but we were there late afternoon and so many galleries were closed. However, there was one potters’ cooperative where a potter spoke good English and we learned a lot about the gallery and the town. As we strolled further we could hear jazz being played, and found ourselves invited into the opening of a painting exhibition – wine, nibbles, and very friendly people. What fun, and luck!
25 MAY 2023
From Serviers it was quite a long drive on impressive freeways to the famous city, Aix-en-Provence – well it is Cezanne country, so I think it’s famous. We did try to see his atelier but so did many others, and it was a 2 hour wait, which we didn’t do. Aix is another beautiful city. We were there to see two art exhibitions which were huge and great – Englishman, David Hockney (still working at 85) and Max Ernst (German/American/French) died 1975. Seeing original work and the artist’s development over decades was very special.
20 MAY 2023
We drove from Clermont-Ferrand to stay for a month in the very small village of Serviers-et-Labaume, which is near the bigger, beautiful old town of Uzes (oo-zes) for a month, until 20 June.
I had some time to ‘kill’ in London before I caught the Eurostar to Paris. I only went through Paris and caught a train to Angers (‘onjay’), about 300 kms south-west of Paris. So, I went for a walk through Chelsea and Sloane Square – I had heard about the ‘Sloan Rangers’ but not sure I saw any! There were some very fancy shops with interesting window displays (not great photos). As I walked, I was walking along with a group of young men who were happy and polite. They were in London for 9 months from Nepal, and posed generously for a photo.
16 MAY 2023
I was met by my friend, Nicole, in Angers, and stayed in her father’s house in a nearby village, Bouchemaine (meaning mouth of the River Maine), where the Maine joins the River Loire.
Nicole’s brother, Hérvé, was there as well, and we spent one lovely afternoon touring the nearby villages. In a very small village, Rochefort-Sur-Loire, I was impressed by the size and beauty of the church.
On 19 May, Nicole and I travelled about 450 kms south, on motorways, to Clermont-Ferrand, to stay overnight before continuing further south the next day. We had time (of course!) to visit the local art gallery.
We are now staying in a very small village, Serviers-et-Lebaume, near a very beautiful town, Uzès. More later!
16 MAY 2023
It was exciting to be met at St Pancras by a ‘distant’ cousin, Michelle, and her husband, Mark, who I hadn’t seen for about 40 years – although she was convinced it wasn’t that long ago. We had dinner at the nearby German Gymnasium which was built in the late 19th Century, and was England’s first purpose built gym, in 1865. I didn’t envy the waiters having to walk up the stairs to deliver drinks and food.
I stayed overnight in Kensington, near Earl’s Court. Many signs of King Charles III Coronation which I had deliberately missed by one day, because of the crowds I assumed would gather. Architecture in the UK now very different from France!
My sister-in-law, Essel, lives in Edinburgh and I wanted to visit her. I’ve been there at least half-a-dozen times – as everyone says, it is a lovely city, and the sun shone for two of the four days I was there. One walk I’ve repeated most times, is along the Water of Leith to the art gallery, and another time to Leith, the port.
The Spring flowers were particularly beautiful in Edinburgh.
After three changes of tickets (strikes and engineering works), I was finally on the train from Edinburgh, through London to Brighton.
BRIGHTON (and LONDON again)
I was warned there would be train strikes, and there was one which delayed my trip to Brighton by a day, to catch-up with Pam, Pete’s sister. Fortunately, we were able to spend a day together in Brighton/Hove, and another in London before I caught the Eurostar to France.
Walking around central London
7 MAY 2023
I forgot to mention one important fact about Collioure, that I joined three other South Australians; Alison and Chris had just walked the Portuguese Camino (phew), and Sandra had spent the same time in Morocco. After Collioure, they went to Lyon and then I joined them there, after Tarragona. We had a lovely, huge home exchange for six days in a suburb, Tassin-Demi-Lune, an easy train ride to the old town.
On my first day, and after a boulangerie breakfast, we joined a tour of, almost secret, covered passageways (traboules) which originally allowed workers and craftspeople to transport goods through the city and avoid bad weather. Most traboules are now on private property, and are entrance passageways to apartments. Many traboules have been blocked off and used as storage areas.
We caught a funicular up to the Basilica Notre-Dame at Fourvière, a district on a hill above the Saône River.
The Lyon food market
Lyon’s indoor food market has an international reputation for offering the finest gourmet food – Les Halles de Lyon–Paul Bocuse. Lyon is dubbed France’s capital of gastronomy. Paul Bocuse was a French chef based in Lyon who was known for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine.
The Confluence Museum
Lyon is built where the Saône and Rhone Rivers meet, and this museum is built at that confluence, hence the name.
The museum includes four major exhibitions. The first deals with questions of origin, the second explores evolution of different species, the third is about human societies, and the fourth is about the death of humans, and how it has been dealt with in different societies
The others left for Australia and so I ‘rattled around’ in the big house for a couple of days. Of course, I went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, seen as one of the largest galleries in Europe. It is housed in a magnificent, former Benedictine convent.
2 MAY 2023
Travelling across southern France to the Mediterranean coast by train to Collioure, we went through an extensive coastal wetland area. Etang de Salses is a shallow lake with a surface area of 54 km2, designated as a protected Ramsar site.
Collioure is a charming coastal village in the Vermilion Coast of Southern, France only 30 km from the Spanish border. The old town, with a dominant ancient castle, is a maze of narrow streets where each morning fresh produce is brought by vans and carts to the shops and restaurants. Even though it is only mid Spring there are still many tourists and the local businesses are ready. The Catalan heredity/influence is very evident.
We arrived at the Collioure railway station to be met by Margaret’s French friend, Jocelyn, who kindly took us to our separate accommodations (mine in the old town, and Margaret’s further away), and then food shopping. Next day we caught a local bus to visit Jocelyn in Port Vendres, a fishing port, a little further south along the coast, built on steeper slopes.
These illustrations in an information brochure really captured the essence of Collioure
TARRAGONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN
I was excited to be met by Ingrid and Iris at the bus station in Tarragona, a beautiful, small, coastal city south west of Barcelona. The Medrano family came as home-exchangers to my home in 2015, and I went to theirs later the same year. Pete and I visited them again in Tarragona in late 2018.
I had a wonderful time with them and their extended family – Ingrid’s parents Rosa Maria and Josep Maria, and Marc’s parents, Dolors and Santi. It will be sad to leave them.
We went to the summer home and specially-built studio of 20th Century Catalan artist, Juan Miro outside the village of Mont-Roig Del Camp. I saw illuminated reproductions of his work that I had never seen. Then to the hilltop church where he walked in the afternoon.
Rosa Maria put the finishing touches on a traditional Catalan dessert (Crema Catalana) – some like it plain
24 APRIL 2023
We have really loved just strolling in the country lanes or villages, hope you do to. It is very different from Australian countryside, as you know. Today we hoped there would be a cafe in a very small village nearby, and there was.
23 APRIL 2023
PERIGORD/ DORDOGNE (in South west France)
A fast train ride took us east from Bordeaux to the ancient and beautiful town of Sarlat in the Perigord/Dordogne (not far from the Dordogne River). Périgord is famous for black truffles. As well, we see many farms raising ducks and geese for producing foie gras – so they are everywhere.
Beautiful sculpted gardens over 22 hectares, with tens of thousands of boxwoods that have been developed and hand-trimmed since the late 17th Century, on cliffs above the Dordogne River.
We’ve been to a couple of castles/chateaux, both quite different from each other.
Chateau Milandes (15th Century) was bought by Josephine Baker (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephine_Baker), a black American singer, dancer and actress who became famous and highly regarded in France in the early 20th Century. She adopted 12 children from different countries to show how different races could live together. She was significantly discriminated against in the USA.
Chateau Beynac (12th Century) was a fortress and seemingly impregnable, perched high above the Dordogne. It has family connections with Richard the Lionheart, King of England, during the religious wars (The Crusades).
La Roque Saint-Christophe
Th Roque Saint-Christophe is a huge rock formation on the River Vezere where people have lived and made dwellings for centuries.
As you may know, I’m heading to Europe in April. I’m mainly spending time in France but will have two brief trips, one to Spain to see ‘old’ Homeexchange friends, and the other to visit ‘sisters-in-law’ in Edinburgh and Brighton, UK. The longest part of the trip will be spent in Provence with my French/Australian friend, Nicole Messie. I’m also joining my friend, Margaret Gadd, in Bordeaux, Carsac, Collioure and Lyon. I’m starting this blog in Penola, and it’s still March, but I wanted to make sure you receive this, and will, as I travel. Pete is staying Penola.
SINGAPORE (on 11 April)
During the long stop-over at Singapore on our journey, Margaret and I walked from Changi Airport to the Jewel shopping complex. The attraction was the huge waterfall with walking bridges, elevators, and trains moving through on elevated tracks. Continue reading One in Europe