Le Petit Hotel & the Irish connection Monday, Sep 27 2010 


The green fields of Ireland


The Irish sun shone today Friday…& after a phone call to Portrush…Inspector Whitfield (retired) had enough clues to set the gps to Cullybackey…and go looking….

The “luck of the Irish” must have been with me ….and after a stopping off at a few country houses…the trail was getting decidedly hotter….some people sort of knew of the Sands family – ( my g. grandmother’s  family). Some had never heard of them..but the ‘net was tightening as I drove down a narrow country lane towards some houses…knocked on a door…and after a cup of tea with the nice lady…I found myself looking out through her kitchen window at a neighbouring farm house….part of which probably was more than 200 years old. ..the most likely place where my grandmother aged about 2 yrs together with her parents and some close friends would have packed their few belongings and headed off to catch a boat ( The clipper Waikato) to New Zealand….for a totally new beginning…thousands of miles away, and so it would have been..
I  thought of how far we all have come in a relatively short space of 100 +  years and the life we enjoy as I stepped inside the remaining original thick stone walls…looked at the huge stone hearth tiles..& the old fireplace with swinging wrought iron frame still with some kettle & pot hooks…one can only begin to imagine just how tough life was especially for the women folk of this era. Like so many other Northern Ireland emigrees,  the Sands family would have packed up & left with precious little apart from their clothes & a few personal possessions that they could manage between them all.

I  will return home to NZ and Le Petit Hotel ….with a somewhat better appreciation of just what my ancestors’ lives were like in Ireland……..tough…unbelieveably tough, and not to mention the Irish weather.


Cullybackey: the connection with Le Petit Hotel Saturday, Sep 25 2010 

Clipper Waikato

Waikato berthed at Port Chalmers, South Island, NZ

My grand mother Annie Kernohan ( nee Sands) emigrated to New Zealand as a very young child with her mother Agnes Sands and other family members. They sailed directly to the port of Lyttelton in the South Island of New Zealand taking just under 100 days, and then travelled to Timaru by train. The family set up home on a small parcel of land just south of Timaru.

They left Ballymena & the Cullybackey townlands in the late 1800’s at a time when poverty was particularly rife and there was very little hope of improvement, in search of a better life with more opportunities.

My visit to N.Ireland, my first, is to obtain a glimpse of the countryside, and make some new contacts that might prove useful as my brother & I delve into our mother’s family ancestral records.

Paris to Belfast, N. Ireland, via easyjet Thursday, Sep 23 2010 

Just tried the Irish trick of sending mail without the dotcom!
Clearly this le petit hotel manager is suffering from his holiday….
Strict security at the CDG departure point ….full body search for everyone…shoes xrayed…belt off..etc…etc :-))
But a good clear flight across France until we met the approaching rain over the Irish sea.
Flying in over the Irish countryside, the place is green….real emerald green as they say….mostly white houses with dark grey roofs..
Another Peugeot, a Budget 107 was waiting for bruce…& back to RHD  for the Irish roads…no challenge for the gps again…
After a little drama locating the owner of the Marlagh b&B (who was at a choir practice in Belfast! )….a small matter of Irish time being different to Easyjet Paris time….I eventually tumbled into bed about midnight (Irish time ;-))
Anyway…I. can report that Irish wifi works even if it means I have to sit outside the bedroom on the 2nd floor landing.

Paris to CDG & Easyjet to Belfast Int. Thursday, Sep 23 2010 

Today’s challenge for bruce began with farewelling Martine in the centre of Paris & driving the Peugeot as fast as everyone else towards Charles de Gaulle terminal 2 for the flight to Belfast.
Now this task is just a tad different to a Sumner to Christchurch run….allow for french drivers who appear to think that they are the only ones on the road…allow for the odd red light stuck at a busy intersection….add the odd periferique interchange where too many roads squeeze into one…..all with no lanes…allow for diversions with the signpost pointing exactly opposite to where you should go….apart from that…its just a Sunday drive; -))
I can understand why some gps owners download John Cleese….to give them moral support as they tackle Parisian traffic.
But Belfast is calling….I can hear Irish voices among the Arabs in the departure lounge….not that they’re heading to Ireland I have summised. Sofar the EasyJet experience is trouble free especially for this solo traveller with no baggage.

Moulins to Paris, via the N7 ; a Paris Loft Apartment Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

It was Sunday in France when we departed Moulins….and Paris was 350 + kms away…but really just a leisurely drive away on the Route National N7…that is at least until you reach the outskirts of the city.
We took a picnic lunch stop by taking an exit road at about 12.30….& found a very quiet spot adjacent to the Loire river and on a blind backwater canal boat parking area, a place called Châtillon-sur-Loire.
Back on the N7,..few trucks are permitted on french roads on Sundays….and so traffic was light. However..what we had not allowed for was that this particular weekend was one special one when the French Govt allow free public access to all museums….national places of interest…etc  across France and when that happens all roads lead to “Rome”…!!…& so when our intrepid travellers eventually hit Paris..every Parisian was either in town or heading there complete with car. It was the typical day when most French cars get a “haircut” ..their sides get brushed (requires a paint job later! ) and many get shortened by the width of their front & rear bumpers. If there’s a space for a mini….a French man is quite capable of getting a Mercedes into it! It’s hard to watch.
Inspite of all the above,  & several hours later…about 7pm..bruce eased the luckily undented leased Peugeot into a public parking basement… :-))..after having parked illegally for a while in a nearby street …while Martine ran our cases into our Japanese styled 2.5m x 2.5m approx., 7th floor, under the roof, Parisian Loft Apartment in the Marais district. I have to report that it took the combined brain power of two Le Petit Hotel managers on their hands & knees to work out how to put together the foldaway bed..the situation not being helped by the last tenants who in probable confused desperation had repacked the bed incorrectly. It was well after midnight when we actually collapsed onto the bed as opposed to the bed collapsing.
The micro loft apartment is located on Rue du Vieille du Temple which runs into Rue Rivoli,  & in daylight one could see the Sacre-Coeur Basillica on the horizon over in the Montmartre district and also a glimpse of Tower Eiffel, plus a good view of the neighbouring roof tops & chimney pots.


7th Floor Parisian Loft View


Paris is France & France is Paris. People are drawn to Paris ..stroll the pavements, drink coffee while seated at one of the hundreds of pavement cafes and just watch people. It is the city of fashion for both young & old…fashion ( in clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves etc )  is everywhere…, the place buzzes with life..it’s a vibrant place for all. We even managed to spot a very obedient Scottish Terrier crossing the Rue Rivoli amongst all the traffic.
I mentioned to Martine, it’s easy to observe that the Smartphone is now the new cigarette “must have in the hand”…

Wednesday is Belfast day for Bruce…it will be a culture shock after Paris for sure.

Plan du la Tour to Graveson Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

More kms. on the leased Peugeot today as we drove all day,

A friendly B & B in an old coaching house, Graveston, Provence

after a late petit dejeuner  at Maison d’hote Bergerie…heading to a smallish village called Graveson, not far from Saint Remy Provence.
We did a little of the journey along the coast,but the thought of scores of roundabouts (gps tomtom calls them rotaries!!) ! some only 300m apart , meant a quick decision to take the peage(toll) route and burn up some kms at 130 clicks….even so we only reached Graveson about 6.30pm.
One thing I have noticed in Provence is the lack of birds (the feathered kind! ).
That said….the two intrepid travellers from le petit hotel Christchurch have a knack of bumping into French Scottish terriers. Today we stopped en-route to look at some botanical garden, and by chance drove to the wrong entrance…..& there were a pair of Scotties just waiting for us. Needless to say…we introduced ourselves to the owner and made instant friends with the doggies. For the next two days we’re staying in a 16th century old coaching house, Le Cadran Solaire, Graveston, Provence.

Bruce & Martine...taking a leisurely breakfast 19000 kms or thereabouts from Le Petit Hotel Christchurch

Graveson and St. Remy Provence Tuesday, Sep 14 2010 

France is 10hrs behind NZ time…at the moment, so breakfast at 9 is really 7am!
This morning we had our petit dejeuner out on the terrace. ..despite the presence of the blustery Mistral wind blowing around our tables….its the equiv of our nz southerly….& in the winter it can be bitterly cold…but in Autumn here its not too bad. We both had a leisurely breakfast…with Martine having the usual delicious croissants while bruce can only look on with envy now since his gluten intolerance has developed…..so here I am at the table munching on my corn sacramental catholic like/type wafers which I try to disguise with loads of butter, apricot confiture & cheese…while Martine enjoys her pastries…..as my mother back in Temuka, used to say when she got older….life is not fair!
Talking about life….here in Provence you can’t help but be reminded of how insignificant our human lifetimes are in the scale of things. The huge white limestone mountains laid down by millions of sea creatures…millions of years ago..then millions of years later raised up out of the sea to form southern France…then there are the Roman ruins of which St Remy has its examples.
You are never far from history in France..& so it is that Nostradamus the french philosopher & doctor…who made his well known predictions for the future…..he was born in St Remy.
St Remy…is the home of the author Vicki Archer…an Australian who has written two lavishly illustrated pictorial books describing the “French Life” she and her family have discovered in Provence. Both books are on the shelves back in Le Petit Hotel NZ.

Tomorrow we head west again…..destination: Agde…southwest of Montpellier.

Chasteuil to Plan De La Tour & La Bergerie Saturday, Sep 11 2010 

Two days at Chasteuil wasn’t really long enough, but the Le Petit Hotel holiday plans called for a stop off in Draguignan further south, to see some friends of Martine and then we had a B & B to find in Le Plan du Tour…a place first recorded in the 12th Century as  Castrum de Planaturris.

Plan de la tour is a small village about 6Km from the med. coast not too far from either Saint Maxime or Saint Tropez. Martine’s spontaneous “off the cuff” choice for accommodation in the area was an establishment called Maison d’hôte La Bergerie, visit La Bergerie
a friendly guest house, just 3 kms from Plan de la Tour, and as it turned out…..a very good one at that..The B & B ( more a true Provencal style home) was built on the vestiges of an old shepherds hut…which belonged to the owners family. A stylish, pristine home, providing both studios and chambres, the property overlooked the owners vineyard, and was complete with the essential pool for the hot balmy Provencial Summer evenings.
Our friendly super hosts Françoise and Gilles and their great terrace breakfasts meant more regrets when we left two days later.

Despite the scorching summers & little rain, this area of France abounds in cork, olive, Pin Parasol trees ( a mediteranean pine with an umbrella type structure) & others including chestnuts & eucalyptus….so its quite green inspite of the dry climate….& then there is the deep blue sea never too far away  ..and it is truly blue.

Annecy to Castellane to Chasteuil Saturday, Sep 11 2010 

In France you can choose to live in the fast lane or the slow one…roads that is! & the trip to Chasteuil from Annecy took longer than we anticipated despite hurtling along the Autoroute at the maximum allowable speed. The end result was that the intrepid Le Petit Hotel managers ended up negotiating the beginning of the Gorge du Verdon & a very narrow unknown one way road up to the hamlet of Chasteuil, well after dark, supported only by the friendly glow and reassuring computer voice of their TomTom GPS.

Le Gite Chasteuil

Breakfast in the Gorge du Verdon

A relaxed Chasteuil breakfast at 900m in the Gorge du Verdon

And so we find ourselves in an ancient school building at 900 metres in the Alps de Haute Provence overlooking the Verdon river. Our hosts Pascal Beguin & Nancy Herfield turned out to be great b&b hosts and 2 nights were probably not enough….but we may be back sometime.
If you are into mountain walks…huge scenic vistas of ancient limestone mountains, clean clear rushing mountain streams, plus piece & tranquility this is a good spot….even if to chill out & do nothing….France as a country can do it so well.

Eken M001 Chinese Android mid tablet Thursday, Aug 26 2010 

Early postings to this blog were made using a Eken tablet.  A Chinese representative 7″ MID unit with the model # m001, the device provides a very inexpensive alternative to the iPAD, and while it lacks the generally acknowledged smooth functionality of the Mac hardware/software, all things considered, including its resistive touch screen, it offers a useful range of applications based on the Google Android operating system,   including the provision of a browser, & an email client. A minor issue could be seen in the typical battery life of about 2.5hrs…however for non business use, and using the device purposefully, it is more than adequate for a holiday communications gadget. A simple solar charged lithium flat battery pack with a 9v output would be an inexpensive useful adjunct to the tablet

As it transpired…as a wifi communications gadget it worked well for the entire 2010 holiday..

The connection problems experienced in many places, can be attributable to incorrect network setups and in some cases  the networks simply demanded that you pass through just too many hoops before granting a wifi  connection permission. However as mention elsewhere in this Le Petit Hotel travel blog, the free wifi networks provided in the MacDonalds & Quick restaurants were well worth a Mac do and some frites, when all else failed.

Next Page »