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

Le Cap d’Agde to Saint Victor , Aveyron. Millau Bridge Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

Yesterday Thursday…saw us on the road again…we bade farewell to Martine’s sisters & brother..and headed towards Millau.

Le Petit Hotel neighbours Bruce & Janine have a share in a canal/house boat….and just by coincidence they had arrived in Montpellier from Paris via the TGV yesterday and after a few texts we located the two of them not long on their boat in Frontignan, which is just a few kms north east of Agde. Much excitement to see familar faces so far from Christchurch. After a leisurely coffee & a bite of cheese on board we headed off on the road in the direction of Millau.
Martine had prearranged a couple of bednights in a tiny village called Saint Victor.. in the heart of Roquefort cheese “country”. However the highlight off our late afternoon arrival in the village was the discovery of the fresco paintings by Nicolai Greschny in the local Eglise de Saint-Victor. Tomorrow we are off to see the spectacular Millau bridge.

Now its time to confess I’m sending this blog note from a Mac do just outside Millau..have viewed the bridge in brilliant sunshine. Tomorrow we head further north, via the Millau bridge, for a night in Moulins before our final run through to Paris on Sunday.

Millau: A bridge among bridges

Glanum & Cape d’ Agde Thursday, Sep 16 2010 

Yesterday after scoffing my gluten free cruskits coated with copious quantities of apricot jam….my forced version of a terrace petit dejeuner ,we headed off from Graveson (St Remy du Provence) to the ruins of Glanum. Now Roman ruins are just that….but you cannot help being amazed at both their building skills & how far advanced they were….2000 years ago. Situated in a strategic mountain pass, they built the city of Glanum…containing peasant houses & what we would call luxury homes complete with indoor pools & baths. The romans brought their wine making skills to france and one of the premises in the city was a wine smoking facility..which enabled them to store the wine for periods…..much as we do today except we use chemical preservatives.
Water from the local spring was channelled under the main street ( its still there complete with running water )and most homes & buildings would have had a supply of fresh water. The streets also had side channelling to cope with the heavy rain sometimes experienced in the area.
Stone circular wash basins are still in evidence strangely reminisent of current italian styled bathroom fittings!. The original well that would have supplied backup water..is still to be seen. Overall its a humbling site to wander around especially if you can visit it without the hordes of tourists that would be there in peak season. We left the ruins quietly thinking about life in Roman times…..

Back on the road again we headed off in the direction of Montpellier, skirting around and across some of the low lying marshland and tidal land which makes up the area known as the Carmague. Its home to the french wild white horses and also the flocks of pink flamingoes which feed in the shallow water. We passed closeby to the town of Sete..much wrtten about in books…and onto Cape d’Adge.
Last evening we had an evening meal at a restaurant…it also was the occasion of one of Martines sisters birthday…and as the area is renown for its fish restaurants. ..we ended up in a place on a pier,very close to the seafront. Now bruce is not really a fishy person….and as long as the fish is fish if you get my meaning..I can usually cope….however my scottish irish ancestry came out when I desperately looked around my large plate for the pomme de terre
the only sign of a potatoe was a small shrivelled up chip….which certainly presented bruce with the ultimate challenge of how to cut it into minute pieces to make it spin out. And I almost forgot to mention I had to swallow quickly the entree of goose liver which is certainly an aquired taste….
However this morning is bright hot clear blue day in the south of france….& to the west on the far distant horizon I can see my beloved Pyrenees……..sadly not to be visited on this trip.
Historically, cape d’Adge originally was nothing but a low lying swampy mosquito infested area…which more than 30 years ago was seized by developers who created the huge resort town it is today…it having also gained some notoriety from the parallel development of one of Europe’s biggest naturists resorts.
However I can safely report that neither le petit hotel nz operators are of that following….anyway the temperatures back in Christchurch as just a little on the chilly side for such experiments!

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.

Travels FRANCE Tuesday, Sep 7 2010 

Phew! There is the line about the best laid plans of mice & men…etc.etc..but it seems le petit hotel owners martine & bruce were lucky to get away on their holiday in france. It appears now now that the quake has revealed an ancient fault line which maybe hasn’t moved for 16,000 years!
Anyway we are both here in France & are currently positioned in a delightful lakeside place called Annecy…..a little like Queenstown, but with plenty of ancient history behind it..and surrounded by towering limestone mountains all having been under the sea millions of years ago….this country is old..really old…and I guess that’s its significant difference with our tiny island country. We are travelling using a Peugeot eurolease 207 diesel…its an amazing car…using about 4.9 litre/100km…and with lots of torque. Its very easy to exceed 130km on the french roads. Tomorrow we are moving down to the Gorge du Verdon and into a small b&b perched high in the mountains…accessible using what kiwis call a goat track!

Earthquake delay Tuesday, Sep 7 2010 

(Category travel)The one thing we didn’t forsee was an earthquake in christchurch the morning of our departure! The result for us was a delayed departure & a missed connection to Paris. Instead of Sunday in France driving south to Annecy, we found ourselves killing time in Singapore & sleeping over at the River View hotel. However all was not lost & this afternoon saw us just enjoying a walk to the Raffles Hotel & having a snack & drink in the inner courtyard.

later that day: So here we are back at Changi T3 doing a spot of DF window shopping before heading to France exactly a day late.

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.

Belfast Tuesday, Aug 24 2010 

Postings under this category will commence on or about the 22nd Sept 2010, from Belfast/Northern Ireland.

The primary reason for this visit is to gather a little more information about my Irish ancestors ( Sands & Kernohans) who emigrated out to New Zealand in the late 1800’s,  leaving behind family & friends,  and settled not far from Pareora, South Canterbury. I will be visiting Ballymena, Cullybackey, Ahoghill & Carrickfergus.

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