Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Serendipity. After eight months travelling in France we have discovered that Germany has just as much to offer!
The Howses are now on their way back to Canada and we are heading north on the Rhine, dodging cruise ships, heavily laden barges and rocks in the middle of the river. The Rhine will take us to the Netherlands via German cities such as Bonn, Cologne and Dusseldorf.
Had we turned east a while back, we could be heading to Berlin and Budapest. Maybe next year.
Thursday, 5 June 2014
Tom passed the helm over to me so he could eat his lunch.
I wobbled the boat out of the channel.
A rock was struck. The boat lurched backward. The eggs went forward.
No injuries. No leaks.
Even when you can barely see them, the channel markers are there for a reason.
And put the eggs away after you've taken what you'll use.
They finished up on April 25th and we moved out of our apartment and back onto the boat the same day. On the 26th we drove to Marseille where we picked my parents up at the airport.
We stopped at the medieval walled city of Aigues Mortes for lunch on the way back to the boat and used the rental car the next day to do a circuit of the lake/etang.
|South of Carcassonne, in the Pyrenees foothills|
|La Cite at Carcassonne from the graveyard across the valley|
Carcassonne was excellent, both the real city and the medieval walled city/tourist attraction. We rented a car to explore the Pyrenees to the south, including natural hot springs, and the Central Massif to the north, including a town devoted to used book shops. Book lovers heaven!!!
On May 10 we drove to Toulouse, wandered around a bit and had an excellent Asian meal before leaving my parents at their hotel to catch their early flight next morning.
We returned back down the canal (always more relaxed going down than up) and set out for the wide open sea. Ultimately, we spent one lovely day swimming in the brisk waters of the Mediterranean among the rocks a little to the west of Marseille. Then we headed back north, braving just a couple of extremely sea sickening hours to get off the pitching sea.
|Rennes les Bains where the water runs hot|
Above Lyon the river is called the Soane, rather than the Rhone, and after a few days of that we moved to the east onto the Canal du Rhone au Rhin which follows the River Doubs.
Currently, it is June 6 and we have left the boat at a marina in Montbeliard, a week's motoring from Strasbourg. We rented a car and drove just under five hours to get to Versailles, just outside Paris. Yesterday we spent a full 6 hours wandering the Palace of Versailles and grounds and some of us will return today to wander a little more with Tom's neice, Becky, who arrived by plane and train from England yesterday.
|Bathing beauties in the Mediterranean calanques|
Monday, 7 April 2014
When we hit the 5000 photos mark after March Break, I decided I'd better figure out what to do with them. I found shutterfly, and have spent the past week designing this photo book. I am now at the mercy of this organization. I want to photo book everything!!!!!
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
|The Mir space station at Toulouse|
|Intersection performers in Toulouse|
A couple of days later we headed north of town to hike through a cave and try to remember which are stalagmites and which are stalactites. (If it helps, stalagMites monter up, while stalacTites tomber down).
|Funky lighting in the Grotte de Clamouse|
|Stalagmites or stalactites?|
|Pretty street in St Guilhem le Desert|
In addition to seeing lots of cool cave formations, we had the pleasure of lunching by the Devil's bridge and walking through the nearby town of St. Guilhem le Desert, definitely one of the most charming French towns we've come across.
|The Pont du Diable|
Friday, 21 March 2014
|Swan shaped towels in the guestroom|
|The Mediterranean patio welcome|
At the end of the first week, my brother, Rich, his wife, Barb, and their son, Ben (aged 12) arrived from Kanata via Air Canada and the TGV to Montpellier. Tom rented a van for the week so we would have the ability to explore far and wide.
|Crazy Canadian kids in the Mediterranean on March 8|
|Pretty market food photo|
Having not found anything that everyone could eat at the market, we drove to the town of Sete for an extremely slow French lunch. Emily and I adventurously ordered the mussels done in the local style, which turned out to involve stuffing them with sausage meat. Surprising, but very good.
After lunch we drove up the hill at Sete and enjoyed the views of the Etang de Thau on one side (our village is down the other end) and the Mediterranean on the other.
In Barcelona, we rented an apartment for two nights, allowing us a full day in the city to make use of the hop on hop off bus tour. We started at the Park Guell where most of us appreciated the funky Dr. Seuss-ish architecture of Antonio Gaudi, though one of our party wondered repeatedly and aloud how such CRAP could ever get built.
We wandered La Rambla, Barcelona's tourist shopping avenue, where I invested in some colourful artwork. We also meandered through the Poble Espanyol (the Spanish Village), a collection of building facades chosen to represent architecture from all over the country and filled with shops, restaurants and a few working artisans. Tom wandered the port a bit and spent some quality time on his own going through the maritime museum.
For the record, I have to say that it was much easier and more pleasant to feed ourselves on a diabetic gluten free diet in big city Spain than in small town France. For lunch a few of us wandered a covered market where we found an excellent crustless spinach quiche, rice with vegetables, chick pea salad and ratatouille. For dinner we found Turkish food that included kebabs and an extremely excellent stuffed eggplant.
This turned out to be somewhat true. The country of Andorra is on the way to the solar furnace and allowed for several hours of spectacular mountain scenery viewing. Andorra, however, is somewhat limited in the personality department, having developed itself primarily for the purposes of low tax shopping.
The solar furnace, when we reached it after what seemed like several more hours of mountain scenery, was very interesting. The sun's rays hit an array of 64 reflective panels that rotate with the sun. They reflect the sun back to the concave array of mirrors on the building that you see in the photo below. These all send the rays back to a single focal point that can reach as much as 3400 degrees celcius. They say they use this to do research, but really it's just a bunch of guys who like to set stuff on fire. In the demonstration we watched the guy was able to set a stick on fire in just a couple of seconds using just one set of mirrors. (Check the link at The Solar Furnace at Odeillo if you want a more complete explanation.)
Eventually we made it off the blessed mountain having stopped only for a few minutes for the requisite people-wearing-t-shirts-holding-snowballs photo opportunity.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
|Bike path to the hill town of Sete|
In my world, it was stunning. The entire way from Marseillan-Plage (the beach town that shares its name with our home of Marseillan-Ville) to Sete there is uninterrupted beach along the south side. That's about 20 km of sand. The bike path itself is bordered by stick fencing to hold the sand back and tall grasses. Being the end of February, the path is not yet swarmed with beach-goers, though I can see that it will be in a few months.
|Sand dunes on the Mediterranean|
The best part, however, after 60 minutes of hard peddaling (I was determined to get all the way to Sete in a hour once I realized it was achieveable) was when I turned around and discovered that for a large part of the path, the snow capped Pyrenees are in view.