The Pont du Gard

My last post in this series was French Villages.

Two weeks into our vacation we departed our St-André apartment near the Spanish border and headed east to Italy.

We had a full day ahead and that necessitated some time driving the major highways, but near Nimes we veered off in the direction of the Pont du Gard.

Continue reading “The Pont du Gard”

French Villages

My previous post in this series was Cathar Strongholds.

There are four more villages in this Languedoc-Roussillon region of France that we particularly enjoyed.

Collioure, with its castle, mediaeval streets, and beautiful setting on the Mediterranean, has attracted artists and poets – in the early 1900’s it was a centre for fauvism and such artists as Picasso and Matisse.
The Château Royal de Collioure has a mixed history as a castle, fortress and more recently, a prison during WWII – photo credit to my brother-in-law.

             Next is Continue reading “French Villages”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment

This week we are challenged to share a picture that captures a fleeting moment on the street.  For my purposes, as a painter, I like to do landscapes and I have been known to spend time getting photos without people and traffic.  I am a late arrival when it comes to street photography and only recently have come to see the interest and beauty to be seen in city streets.  This was taken in Continue reading “Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment”

Travel Theme: Parks

“At the ends of the earth, where the Americas become condensed into a volcanic wedge of moist Antarctic rainforest and cold, beautiful lakes, caught between toothy ridges of sheer granite and rivers of glittering ice, is Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is the very edge of human habitation.” –

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Parks.

Established in 1960, the Tierra del Fuego National Park encompasses about 240 square miles and is the southernmost national park in the world, stretching north from the Beagle Channel along the Chilean border. (map)

Our catamaran sailed into Bahia Lapataia with the mountains rising majestically from the channel.
Here sits the most Continue reading “Travel Theme: Parks”

Cathar Strongholds

My previous post in this series is The Little Yellow Train.

When I posted about Carcassonne I mentioned the Cathars.The term ‘cathars’ stems from the Greek catharos, which means the purified ones.

Wikipedia says: “Cathars, in general, formed an anti-sacerdotal party in opposition to the Catholic Church, protesting against what they perceived to be the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the Church.”

Pope Innocent III called a Crusade against the Cathars of the Languedoc that lasted for two generations. In the Languedoc-Roussillon region there are a number of strongholds where the Cathars fled to escape persecution.

Quéribus is high and isolated on top of the highest peak for miles around. Continue reading “Cathar Strongholds”

The Little Yellow Train

My previous post in this series was Canal du Midi.

Another gem we unearthed during the fun planning and researching phase was The Little Yellow Train.  The rail line was constructed 100 years ago to link remote villages that are stuck in the nooks and crannies of the Pyrenees. It still performs this function today in addition to being a tourist draw for a unique jaunt into these mountains in the south of France. Continue reading “The Little Yellow Train”

The Canal du Midi

My previous post in this series is a photo essay on Carcassonne.

In our planning process we  discovered  photos of the Canal du Midi – so appealing it made our wannasee list.  A drive north along the Mediterranean coast from St-André brought us to Beziers and a ticket office.

The Canal was carved out across the breadth of France, from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean Sea.  Its original worth was as a trade link but today you will find pleasure boats leisurely putzing along.

Continue reading “The Canal du Midi”

Carcassonne: A Photo Essay

Last post in this series was Driving the coast road

Carcassonne lies about 120 kms northeast of our home base of St-Andre, south of Perpignan.  Consisting today of La Cité, the oldest part, and the Ville Basse or Lower Town, the history of the site rolls back over two thousand years.

Carcassonne was first identified as being strategically important in 100 BC and was fortified by the Romans. In the 13th century, the Cité was a major Cathar stronghold. Continue reading “Carcassonne: A Photo Essay”

Renting in Europe

St-Andre accommodations view from terrace to the Pyrenees

The essence of my previous post is – if you want to have twice the vacation for half the cost, travel with friends.  We have shared six rentals in Europe and there were no surprises – our lodgings were exactly as pictured and described.

I know many are leery of doing business on-line and you only do what you feel comfortable with but we had no problems or hiccups working with either site I mentioned in my last post. These sites offer a wealth of choices in all locations, in all price ranges but your enquiries go directly to the individual hosts and all arrangements and discussions are directly with them.

Some hosts accepted international bank drafts, others preferred pay pal; most requested a 30% deposit on booking.  Check on their refund policy – usually if you give enough notice the deposit will be refunded in case of cancellation.  We did have to cancel one of our bookings and because we only gave less than two weeks notice he was unable to refund.   However, he did provide a letter to submit to our travel insurance, which did reimburse us.

The sites don’t usually give specific addresses so you need to check things out with the host – on one trip we were undecided whether to rent a car or not but in speaking with our host found out that our village was somewhat remote and a car was a necessity.  At another, there was only parking for a mid-sized car, nothing larger.  There was good reason for this as it turned out:   Continue reading “Renting in Europe”

Last Post – on Wales that is

My previous post on Wales, On to London Town, brought us to the Lancaster Hotel in London.  We were using some of my companion’s time share points for this hotel, and good thing too; a five-star hotel in London doesn’t come cheap and even with the points we needed to pay an additional $100 per night.  The Lancaster is normally out of my league.

Even the posh hotels aren’t without risk – perhaps the higher the star count, the hotter the water as ours was too hot – not a common observation, I know.  In addition, I nearly branded by bottom on the heated towel rack.

We had two and a half days in London and we hadn’t really made any plans, which was a mistake. We had both been to London before … Big Ben, St-Paul’s, Westminster, the Tower, the Palace … the old sites don’t change, or if they do it’s not for the better—there’s  scaffolding up for repairs, or plexiglass separating one from the item being viewed, or worse, you can’t even gain access any more.  I had hoped to get a photo of #10 Downing for my door collection – see Just Doors 1 and 2 – but, no access. Consequently we weren’t terribly keen on taking in the sites.  I would have enjoyed entering Westminster Abbey again, but it was not open to the public. The Eye never appealed to me, and along with that Continue reading “Last Post – on Wales that is”

On to London Town

My previous Wales post was Thursday, Friday – Castleday.

We had to plan for an early getaway because we had a deadline to return the car—if you have been following along you know an early start for us was 10.30 … we had to drive all the way across Wales and the Hertz agency closed at noon.  You may also know that Wales is a mere 50 miles from east to west and so we estimated that 8.30, while being an unreasonable hour to be hitting the road, would give us enough time.  With no veering off, good navigating through Haverfordwest’s numerous roundabouts, safe driving with some absolutely wicked sun in my eyes, and David’s helpful directions we arrived in Cardiff at 11 o’clock.  This, for the first time, was actually the two and a ½ hours driving time estimated by Google.  That’s not to say Google doesn’t get it right, only that we always had this tendency to veer off to the intended route.

To interject here, there was a Continue reading “On to London Town”

Thursday, Friday … Castleday

My previous post on Wales was Split Shift.

Saturday, our eighth day, was also to be our last day of touring about Pembrokeshire.  When Deb came down in the morning the kitchen radio was on, just came on by itself.  I looked at it to turn if off and there was a push button on-off.  I pressed it and it came on louder.  Pressed it again, it went fainter, but not off.  Strange.   Course I’m the lady that automatic doors don’t work for.  Strange too is that I don’t even remember any of this, yet it was noted in my journal … in my handwriting … I’m really not good in the mornings.

The Plan for our last day was Continue reading “Thursday, Friday … Castleday”

Split Shift

My last post on Wales was On the Road to Abergwaun

We had given up on our idea of the train ride out of Aberystwyth to the Vale of Rheidol but there was another outing we were both interested in – a trip out to Ramsey Island.

Ramsey Island lies a mile off the Pembrokeshire coast – it’s only about 2 miles long, a nature reserve with some of the finest cliff scenery in Wales.  We had booked on the 10.30 tour from St-Justinian’s but found that due to insufficient people there would only be one sailing that day, at 1.15 p.m.—smack in the middle of the day.  So this was going to have to be a split shift—a poke-about, then Ramsey Island, followed by another poke-about.

So we took one of the roads out of St-David’s and headed to the hinterland of Pembrokeshire … within 5 kms we found ourselves in Whitchurch – in Welsh it is Tregroes, meaning “Settlement of the Cross” – in either language it is a mere blip on the map.

But we were actually in search of Continue reading “Split Shift”

On the Road to Abergwaun

My previous post on Wales was Walking the Coastal Path.

For Thursday we had planned an outing to Aberystwyth.  From Aberystwyth, meaning “Mouth of the River Ystwyth” – I need to  interject here – harking back yet again, to It’s OK, They Speak English, the pronunciation of Aberystwyth is given as: æbəˈrɪstwɪθ – now I ask, it that really helpful?  To continue … from Aberystwyth we planned to take a ride on an old steam train on the Vale of Rheidol Railway that would take us on a “nostalgic journey through some of Wales’ most spectacular scenery”.

But for this day our plans were less ambitious and we headed in the direction of Abergwaun, meaning “Mouth of the River Gwaun”, or, in English – Fishguard.

So again we set off at 10.30 a.m. – this had become our norm; we just couldn’t seem to get moving any earlier – and we motored north along the A487 … but before long Continue reading “On the Road to Abergwaun”

Walking the Coastal Path

My last post in this Wales saga was All things come in threes

Just two miles from our vacation apartment in St-David’s lies Whitesands Beach on Whitesands Bay.  It is said to be the best surfing beach in Pembrokeshire and one of the best tourist beaches in the world. In fact, this October day, we saw Continue reading “Walking the Coastal Path”

All things come in Three’s

Yesterday had been a day of rest, speaking in whispers

Monday, we were refreshed and our chosen  destination was Dinbych-y-Pysgod … harking back to It’s OK, they speak English, I really have no idea how to pronounce that but the good thing is it is well-known by the name of Tenby.   This was the day, it turned out, that had the most annoyances – all travel has its little hiccups and petty annoyances, some one’s own fault, some not. Monday was our day … Continue reading “All things come in Three’s”

It’s OK, They Speak English

Back to motoring our way through Wales … click here for previous post.

My husband had said that we didn’t have to worry about getting lost, they speak English, just ask.  Well, it wasn’t he who was going to have to get his tongue wrapped around Llandovery, Aberystwyth, or Penycwm[1].   Or P·w·l·l·g·w·a·e·l·o·d for heaven’s sake.  Happily our destination and residence for a week was the easily pronounced St-Davids.  As for the rest of it, we can’t really tell you where we’ve been because we can’t pronounce it.

We had spent our first night on the road in Llandovery, ‘the church amidst the waters’, at the edge Continue reading “It’s OK, They Speak English”

Tintern Abbey – a photo essay

Tintern Abbey is situated in the beautiful Wye Valley in the southeastern corner of Wales.  This Cistercian Abbey sits near the A466 north of Chepstow and is said to be one of the greatest monastic ruins in Wales, founded on … I’m not sure how they know this because it is pretty exact … Continue reading “Tintern Abbey – a photo essay”