Look What They Did – Vandalism


Look what they did to the Bell Tower in Perth. Criminal, vandalism is what I say

When the tower was first constructed it was surrounded by park land and fountains. Was visible from all directions and from along the shore line.

This is what one travel blogger had to say …….

This is the hallmark of Australian tourism located at Barrack Square of Perth. Bell tower has high glass spires and it is the largest musical instrument in the world. Here, you can also try your hand at the art of ringing bells. The bells in this tower include original bells of St. Martin in the Fields Church, the Parish church of Buckingham Palace in London.

Read more at: https://travel.snydle.com/10-stunning-places-to-see-in-perth.html | The Gypsy’s Passport

Well not anymore. I guess developer money has spoken.

The poor old bell tower is now swamped by highrise buildings. Gone are the open spaces and fountains. Should you venture up the tower, the only real view is directly across the river. The bells are still ringing but are only audible when you are close by. The loud music from the nearby bars tends to drown out the lovely chimes.

This is nothing but commercial vandalism. Perth City should be embarrassed and ashamed.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Conques


During our earlier foray to Entraygues-sur-Truyere, whilst stood on the dam watching an otter fishing, I had bumped into a pair of cyclists. British as it happens. We had a chat and about each others holiday destinations etc. During this conversation I had mentioned the light show we had witnessed at Chartres. In response they mentioned visiting Conques and the Abbey, that the town was doing something similar every night until the end of September.

I had filed this piece of information away, as a possible target destination for when our friends joined us. Unfortunately, time and a brief spell of tummy upset conspired against us before it was time for them to head back to dear old Blighty.

So Gerry and I decided we would head off to Conques on our own. The plan was to leave late, spend the afternoon doing that touristy thing, then have an evening meal in Conques before enjoying the light show.

It was, yet another, glorious day and we were soon wending our way through the French countryside. Every turn in the road seems to open up another grand view. At times we would appear to be on top of the world with huge panoramas. At others we would be looking down at small towns or villages, dwarfed by the high tree lined sides of gorges.

Soon we were crossing the border, leaving the Cantal, entering the Aveyron. No passport control, just drive on through. Approximately five kilometers from Conques, we stopped for a beer at Chez Marie in the pretty village of Grand Varbres.

After exploring Grand-Varbres we continued on to Conques.


Conques, listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France, is about 30 kilometres east of Figeac and 35 kilometres north of Rodez, in the Aveyron department in the Massif Central. Conques sits on the edge of the gorge of the River Dourdou, in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and forests. The approach from the south is along an especially attractive stretch of river.

https://www.francethisway.com/places/conques.php

Joe Public are not allowed to drive or park inside the town of Conques. There is public parking, for a small fee, just outside the entrance to the town. A gently inclined pathway then takes you up to the centre of town.

That gentle entry is a bit of a con, as deviating to either side results in encounters with steep steps and pathways, all designed to give one a bit of a cardiac workout.

We spent a couple of hours exploring, taking in the quaint streets and houses, as well as the Abbey itself.

It wasn’t long before it was time for another beer. We found a bar and were soon sat, basking in the sunshine, with a glorious view of the Abbey’s twin towers.

At 19:00 we took ourselves off to the restaurant, where previously I had booked a table. We were soon seated at a table on the terrace with a prime view looking down over Conques.

Conques – Where we had our evening meal

The food was superb, a starter which comprised a mixed platter of charcuterie and fromages. Followed by a delicious tender steak with vegetables served in baskets (Yorkshire puds) and aligoo. Then it was time to head out to the Abbey.

Part of the evenings entertainment was a monk explaining the history behind the tympanum. We sat and listened but, as it was only in French, we had no understanding. So the evident humour was lost on us, but not on the rest of the crowd. Similarly, we were not able to make the appropriate responses when prompted by the monk. Still it was an interesting experience.

As for the light show, well we opted not to stay. Gerry was already wilting and I still had over an hours drive back to the gite.

Conques – Abbey Illuminations

It was ten o’clock gone when we left Conques, and with tens of hairpin bends to contend with in the darkness, it made for a fairly intense journey home.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Polminhac


After the previous days travels around Murat, St Flour and Garabit we decided on a gentle start to the day, followed by a short afternoon trip over to Polminhac, where we planned to visit Chateau Pesteills

Chateau Pesteils


Perched on its steep rock, 750m above sea level , the old fortress Polminhac proudly dominates the valley of Cère.
The imposing dungeon symbolizes all the majesty of the castle of Pesteils and evokes the Middle Ages in its harshest expression, glorious testimony of what was to be this stronghold of Cantal. 
Beautiful frescoes of the 15th adorn the interior. 


The seventeenth century enriches the main body with remarkable painted ceilings.
Tapestries, paintings, furniture, parent richly this set. 
Enlarged and restored in the nineteenth century, the castle has been owned since 1608 by  
the family of Cassagne de Beaufort Miramon Pesteils  who still lives today.

https://www.chateau-pesteils-cantal.com/

The chateau is a very interesting place, although the English language printed guides provided were very confusing, mixing information from various rooms and floors with wild abandon.

The rooms are furnished and decorated in line with the history of the chateau.

Moving our of the main chateau we headed up to the “donjon” (keep). Climbing the spiral stairs up through the many floors, of the keep, we were greeted by a bat. On one occasion it flew out of the fireplace on one floor, into and back out of the medaeval loo, back in and up the spiral staircase to the higher floors. At one point it darted out the window on the top floor, out into the bright sunshine. I always thought bats were nocturnal. Obviously this one couldn’t make up its mind if it was a bat or a House Martin. Maybe it’s only the vampire variety that fly at night.

As we climbed, many of the upper rooms were infested with flies, all swarming the windows. Their buzzing was very reminiscent of crime movies when a long dead body is discovered. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bodies.

We ascended to the top of the spiral staircase, which terminated on a walkway under the eaves of the roof of the keep. The walkway consisted of metal grid plates spread across the roof buttressed. You could see all the way down to the ground. Something of a heart stopping, stomach churning sight.

Leaving our two partners, Dave and I stepped out onto the grids to circumnavigate the top of the tower. The views were stunning but we were constantly reminded of the drop below our feet. This uneasy feeling was not diminished by the crumbling state of the stone butresses on which the grids rested.

The following are a few images from around the grounds…..

 

Ha Ha Missed Me


Just come home after picking my wife up from work.

The blue meanies are working Frendstaple Road, at the entrance to Woods Edge,  close to home with a hand-held speed trap.

Sorry but I was on the wrong side of the road, sneaking up behind him.

Phew !!!

Bloated ?


Just over two weeks ago I set off to France on vacation.

Every time I go away I make several promises to myself. I’m not going to overeat, I’m going to eat lots of salads, I’m going to lay off the bread and I’m going to get some exercise.

Of course I jettison most of those within about two nano-seconds of arrival. Salads are easy and I’ll always eat plenty of salad stuff, box number one ticked. The exercise one is sort of easy too since we are going sight-seeing and maybe swimming so that’s tick number two in the boxes. So that leaves the overeating and the bread.

As it happens I find that I actually pick less, no meals between meals if you see what I mean and when I am sightseeing i.e. busy then I don’t get hungry. So the overeating box is lightly ticked as I will go for the full three courses at the main meal and of course I’ve probably had some kind of breakfast.

Which leads us neatly to box number four.

BREAD

How can one go to France and not eat bread ?

Every morning the ritual was to get up and head down to the nearest boulangerie, just three kilometers. The joy of walking into that shop with the fresh loaves displayed behind the counter and the smell, Wow !!

Getting the still warm loaf back to the gite, cup of tea or coffee and then slicing through that crust unleashing more fresh aromas. Slapping on the local charentaise butter and taste buds all jumping for joy.

I can taste it now.

Now, I failed this promise in a big way. Bread (toast) for breakfast, bread before and during meals. So many different styles of bread. Many times I started of the day full of bread. Full but never bloated.

So why is it that after just two slices of Hovis, I feel both full and bloated ?

I know the style of the bread is different and this Hovis stuff is effectively production line, factory bread. What do they put in it that has this bloating effect.

I am seriously thinking that I must take up bread making again even if I have to do it by hand. No Kenwood Chef and Dough Hook, No Kenwood Bread Maker.

I don’t like this bloated feeling.

Round And Round


Day 12 – Tuesday 26th June

Another day with an itinerary planned. Since we are in the Cognac region we felt it would be rude to ignore such a significant subject. So our task for the day was to visit the significant towns of the region, Cognac, Jarnac, Segonzac, Chateauneuf sur Charente & Rouillac.

So off we set, sun shining, for Cognac.

Cognac
Cognac

However, our entry to the town was a little hectic. Noisy roads and difficulty finding a route to the historic  areas had soured our moods a bit so we decided not to stay.

You know what it is like when you don’t like the feel of a place. Can’t put your finger on quite what it is but you know you can’t stay. Perhaps if we had entered on a quieter road we would have stayed.

I know that we are doing Cognac a huge disservice and have probably missed  a huge amount, which is why it has not been struck of our list of places to visit. Just not on this trip. So we headed out to the next place itemised on our personal itinerary,  Jarnac.

Coat of Arms - Jarnac
Jarnac

The feel and pace of Jarnac is entirely different and we rapidly found a place to park, free, on the Quai Orangerie, near the Hine buildings. As it happens we were also very close to the Courvoisier buildings too.

Courvoisier, Jarnac, Charente, France
Courvoisier, Jarnac, Charente, France

Jarnac is equally proud to be the birthplace of François Mitterrand, one of France’s more recent presidents.

We walked alongside the river, past the boats moored with myriads of fish darting around just below the surface.  We crossed the road towards the Courvoisier building before crossing the bridge and heading further along the river to a park.

Quai Orangerie
Quai Orangerie, Jarnac, Charente, France

Jarnac, Charente, France
Jarnac, Charente, France

Given the days temperature it was nice to get under the shade of the trees. A group of  school children were enjoying some team sports while  on the grass, while over in river shallows a group of lads were lobbing a ball around. They were joined by a lady and her dog who was soon lunging after the ball. A little further down on a small island two lads were fishing although I don’t think they really expected to catch anything with all the thrashing around in the water.

Alongside the park there are weirs and channels set up for kayak slalom racing.

Jarnac, Charente, France
Slalom, Jarnac, Charente, France

The park itself is on an island and the paths around its perimeter give one a direct view into to some lovely gardens some of which have their own moorings or pergolas and barbecues.

Charente @ Jarnac, France
Charente @ Jarnac, France

After a delightful time in the park we headed back into Jarnac to get ourselves a drink. We sat and people watched  while we had a couple of beers and nibbles at L’Alambic, Place Du Chateau. It was quite entertaining as opposite the bar there is a small car park with a Tabac  off to one side. The comings and goings, the double and sometimes treble parking was exposing the dark side of some of the drivers who were dashing into the Tabac, we presumed, to get their lottery tickets.

After, we meandered through the streets window shopping, and made our way back to the car, passing the church and numerous architectural features some of which I have attached below…..

Clock Tower, Jarnac, France
Clock Tower, Jarnac, France

Church Door, Jarnac, France
Church Door, Jarnac, France

Jarnac, France
An artefact of the church of St Pierre, Jarnac, France

Once back at the car we rested in the shade and topped up with water. This was one of the hottest days of our holiday so far. Given the time, nearly 17:00, we had to replan our itinerary. Obviously we were not going to be able to visit and tour all the places on our list. So we decided to move on to Segonzac with a view to seeing what we could and maybe getting a meal.

Segonzac was only a short drive away and we were soon parked up a short way from the town square.

Coat of Arms for Segonzac, Charente, France
Segonzac, Charente, France

We would have been parked closer but a stupid woman, stopped her car directly in front of me in the entrance to the car park. Got out of her car and crossed the street. Leaving her car blocking the entrance to the car park.

The Hotel de Ville was very prettily decked out with many flower baskets.

Hotel de Ville, Segonzac, Charente, France
Hotel de Ville, Segonzac, Charente, France

The church was huge but nice and cool inside giving us some respite from the heat and the brightness of the sun.

Church of Saint Pierre, Segonzac, Charente, France
Church of Saint Pierre, Segonzac, Charente, France. Spire is made of stones in the form of pine cones.

We were beginning to realise that we were still too early for a meal in a restaurant and nothing else being available we decided to head on to Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.

Coat of Arms, Châteauneuf-les-Charentes
Châteauneuf-les-Charentes

Only a short journey and we were soon parked up and walking the streets hunting down a place to eat.

Chateauneuf-sur-Charente
Chateauneuf-sur-Charente

Hotel de Ville, Chateauneuf-sur-Charente
Hotel de Ville, Chateauneuf-sur-Charente

Stream, Chateauneuf-sur-Charente
Stream, Chateauneuf-sur-Charente

Unfortunately the only places open were doing fast food. The evening menu still an hour or two off. So, we headed back to the car having decided to aim back to the gite going via Rouillac which was on our original list of places to visit. I had also spotted a couple of signs indicating the existence of restaurants on the road out of town.

So we followed the signs and visited the restaurants…..you guessed it. Closed.

On to Rouillac and a quick motor round the streets which showed no sign of open eateries.  We were getting  concerned about the time. If we just headed home to the gite it would be too late to think about cooking. At our age late eating can play havoc with the digestive system and I wasn’t prepared to go without a proper meal. Snacks are OK but not really fulfilling.

Then I had a brilliant idea. Why don’t we use the SatNav to identify restaurants in the area. Sure enough it started to identify the ones that we had already visited and determined that they were closed. So we decided to hedge our bets a bit.

On previous visits to France and during our journey down to Barbezieres we had seen instances of a food chain “Buffalo Grill”. Usually near to other eateries such as Macdonald’s and close to retail parks. We thought they would probably serve food all day and almost be guaranteed to be open

So we asked TomTom to find us the nearest Buffalo Grill. It did what it was asked and we duly plumbed in the route and set off to the restaurant which was located in Chateaubernard just two miles from Cognac.

We had in fact passed through Chateaubernard on our way to Jarnac after we had jettisoned Cognac earlier in the day. Well what the hey.

We sat outside on the deck and had a nice meal courtesy of Buffalo Grill. I had a burger, medium rare, and my wife had a Rump Steak also medium rare.  Very well presented and filling.

So we had circled Cognac and what seemed like most of the towns in the Cognac region. We had a great day even though it looked like France was determined to starve us out.

The gite was finally illuminated in our headlights around 22:30 after a lonely drive through the French countryside. I nearly squashed the lettuce, gifted by Didier, left by our front door some time earlier in the day. Of course I had to wash that straight away since we didn’t know what creepy crawlies had decided it was their birthday. We added it to the two other lettuces we had in the fridge, also courtesy of Didier.

So a cup of tea while we gentle ceased circling and thence to bed.

Now We Are Off On Our Hols


We have been planning this for a while but it now seems like it is going to happen. Now that we have booked the channel crossing and the motel for our first nights stop.

So there we are. We have booked the gite, motel and shuttle time slot. I have even bought the little headlight converters required when you take a UK configured car over  into la belle France.

Actually the amount of stuff you have to take with you in the car to meet the French motoring regs is growing year on year. When I first went you just needed a warning triangle and a first aid kit. Oh and you had to put deflecter strips on the headlights and paint them a delicate yellow-orange. Nowadays you must have the first aid kit, warning triangle, spare bulb set, reflective jackets (must be in reach without having to get out of the car), headlight conversion (don’t need yellowing). And from next month it will be law for you to carry a breathalyser. Nobody says you have to use it I suppose.

So where are we going ? We are off to Barbezieres  which is a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France. From the link you can see that it has a huge population, 123 back in 2008, that is slap bang in the middle of nowhere. Hopefully this will be the perfect place to destress.

Leastways that is what my wife is hoping for. No phones, no internet etc. etc. etc.

Good news, the gite is situated right in the Cognac region. Plenty of distilleries to visit and of course sample. Just what I need. Not forgetting, hopefully, plenty of photo opportunities.

Dare I say it…… Watch this space ;0)