Saturday, 18 August 2007

G's family week in France

On Saturday, we set off in good time (for us!) for Camp de Levat, between Tournon d'Agenais and Cahors. We went the most direct route, so very little motor way and not much double track, but despite one bad hold-up we made it by 5.0, at the same time as step-son W and his family. Step daughter S and husband arrived about 7.0 by which time we settled in and had sorted bedrooms. W and wife Sa had both children sleeping with them - A (3) was on a mattress on the floor and E (15months) in a cot. She wakes and screams in the night, so the original idea of the 'dormitary' in the roof was not viable - too many steps and carrying etc.

We had a lovely room under a sloping roof, with a bathroom (and the only proper shower) next door, leading to the outside world. It is a lean-to with a very thick wall between it and the screaming E.!!!

That night was mine for feeding the herd, so we had stopped at a supermarket, known from the past, in Condom to buy essentials and food. We had an excellent meal outside of cold things and salad and cheese and felt very French! Later the pattern was set for the week - they all went for a walk in the gloaming (and full moon) while I baby-sat. A valuable time in which I showered and recharged before a last drink and chat, when they came back.

Sunday - W et al went off to a distant market (he's addicted!) in the morning and S & D went to look at Tournon in the afternoon and the rest of the time everyone did their own thing. W et al used the pool. S & D claimed to get a rash from pool water - what a waste! It was a lovely sunny day and I used the pool to cool off (which it did too effectively, being rather on the cool side!) Variously we read, walked, dozed and generally enjoyed ourselves. W was in charge of dinner, so he bar-b-qed and we ate and drank very well. That is the bbq table at the far end of the lawn. Our room was under the sloping roof.

Monday - S&D went to Toulouse Airport to get Sd A and her daughter C. They got back in time for lunch. A & C shared the 'dormitary' with the mice! Meantime, W et al and I went to sus out a restaurant for the all-important birthday dinner. Fell in love with the place and could only hope the food would be OK! As it was showery and cool all day, we lit the fire in the sitting room. The girls did beading and I read and used my camera. E took her first 2 steps with me and C was a witness, otherwise I guess they wouldn't have believed me!! Later it improved and we got outside and some swam. S&D fed us on salmon and raspberry tart outside, so all was more as it should be!

Tuesday and the Birthday - It was wet in the morning but undaunted we set off for Cahors, arriving in a downpour. Luckily it was a last throw from the weather, the sun came out and it was lovely but not too hot. Some shopped, some explored and we met up at a mini roundabout, where we found the girls with the babies happily occupied!

We had an excellent light lunch on the way to the famous bridge and then went on to look at it. It is very interesting and we spent some time walking over it and taking pictures. After we found a nice lady who took pics with all our cameras of all of us which was very kind. They were taken with the above bridge as the background and mine is excellent - everyone smiling and paying attention!! After that we set off for home, showers and changing. The baby sitter turned up on time while we were drinking to G. Off we went in 2 cars to the restaurant whose name I have failed to retain. It is a chateau and hotel with a few rooms. The owner and chef has been there for 30 years and his Dutch wife for about 20. The food was very good, but we had to eat inside because of the weather. No hardship really and the other guests all seemed nice. The hotel knew it was a celebration but as Msr said 'Incognito' when I had said that there were to be no speeches etc. The 2 taxis turned up on time and off we went home after a lovely day.

Wednesday - The first thing to do was to combine the croissants run with retrieving the cars, so people got up remarkably early. We also had to pay the bill because the card telephone connection would not work the night before!! They seemed quite happy, we gave them what cash we had and they had the 2 cars, even without the keys!!

The rest of the day was spent in the pool, reading and walking. W et al went to a market again. He was the feeder that night, and we had prawns, mayo and ratatouile followed by a delicious peach dish with mint and some form of alcohol. There was wall to wall sunshine.
Thursday - W took A & C to the airport, getting back in time of lunch. The day was spent by or in the pool. After tea G and I went of to have a look at Tournon and liked the look of a restaurant, so decided to take them there for my cooking night next day. At home, S&D were busy cooking and we had roast chicken with so many herbs that it was mind-blowing. Why is it that herbs taste so much better and stronger in France. All that sun I suppose. There was certainly plenty that day and it was very hot.
Friday - G & I went with S&D to Penne d'Agenais, a pretty medieval village. It was very hot so we did not explore too much, but I went again the next week. Before going up there we went over the bridge to the supermarket. The rest of the day was the usual, lunch by the pool, swimming, reading etc. W et al went of to P d'A to have a look too. That night the baby sitters came again and we went back to Tournon. We found a market in progress, which meant there was a great atmosphere. Once ordered, we went and had a look, but there wasn't much. The only blot was the little rather aged group who kept singing the same 4 or 5 songs until about 9.30! The food was very good.
Saturday - They all got themselves packed up and were away by 11.30 leaving us time to sort things out abit and prepare for the invasion later!
It was a lovely week. The only thing was that A, who had been talking about nothing but seeing Granny Rho for weeks, wouldn't speak to me at all! I just let her be, but was always there for her, helping her get her confidence in the pool and such-like. Children are funny, aren't they? E on the other hand, who doesn't go to other people willingly, came straight to me and on occasion I was the only one to be able to stop her screaming!! I don't think A was jealous - tried very hard to give both attention, but it could be the reason. We'll see what happens if I see her next weekend when I am with my A in the same village.
So that's it for now. The next week was enormous fun too but quite different.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Seneccio greyii

Here are the pics for the Gardening forum. Seneccio greyio - all one plant



Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Birthday Bash Part 1

Our holiday comes in three parts. First out to Bilboa and on to St-Etienne-du-Baigarry. Then from there to Camp de Levat (Howard's End) near Cahors for the week of The Birthday, with G's children and grandchildren. Next in the same place, but with my children and grandchildren and a Postscript takes us home.
So for the first bit. We started off the day before the ferry because it is quite a hike from Northumberland to Portsmouth and if you have a dead-line it is a nightmare. We spent the night at Ye Olde Bell Inn, an old coaching in on the A1, near Retford. It bears little resemblance to the Inn that our parents used to patronise before the war, but was comfortable and the dinner was good and straightforward. It has recently been taken over by a local man from a chain and he is gradually doing up it and its surroundings. It was not particularly photographic so I don't have a pic to add.
Next day we had a leisurely drive to Portsmouth, arriving in time to go and visit The Mary Rose. What an achievement her salvage was and so exciting to see her in real life. Currently, they are still spraying her with a waxy solution - the last stage of her preservation. As a result the glass you have to see her through is not very clear. I would love to be able to revisit in 2 or 3 years time when she will be safe and able to be seen directly. It was a gorgeous day, so we enjoyed walking round the Victory as well. We didn't have time to go aboard her as it all closes at 5.0ish. From there to the Ferry, where they kept us hanging around for ages but they still managed to sail on time and we had dinner in the mailstrom of everyone else eating too, at 9.00.
I had to make my mandatory visit to the cassino, where I lost twice my limit (!!) and then won back the overspend! 13 was kind enough to come up in the end!
On Tuesday, it was OK in the morning and we walked the deck in the sun. However, by lunch-time the sea was building and my head started to go mad - the first step to sea-sickness. I retired to my bunk and was amazed that G was still going strong! By supper time, I was able to go and buy a sarny and eat it in my bunk.
We came in to Bilbao pretty much on time the next morning (Wednesday) and we were off the ship by 8.00. G. drove and we reached St-Ettienne-de-Blairgorry by mid-day for lunch on the river-side at the Hotel Arce. It is in the foot-hills of the Pyranees. We had a room at the back, because the front rooms are over-exposed to the Church clock!! It was a double room with the bed at one end and chairs at the other. The bath was near the bed and the loo was at the other end, which I found rather odd.
This pic is the view from the French Windows. There was a gravelled area between the Hydrangeas where I did quite a lot of reading.
The next day we drove up a narrow road for a few miles to the pass over the mountain and the Spanish border. We saw 3 eagles on a thermal and a vulture sitting on rock in silluette. The following day we went to look at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a staging post for pilgrims going to Santiago de Compastella. In the old main street, there are still lodgings at a reduced rate for pilgrims. It is a pretty and interesting old place, with a disappointing castle/chateau and town walls which we enjoyed walking.
We much enjoyed our break there, despite the food being disappointing. We both felt we needed the rest and certainly the rest of the holiday was NOT a rest cure!