Saturday, 30 September 2017

Grand Final Day (Saturday 30th September 2017)

Today is AFL Grand Final Day. For the record, the match was played between Adelaide and Richmond, with Adelaide going in favourites to win their first Flag since 1998. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the AFL community abroad on Grand Final day so today that became a reality. The nearest place where there was a gathering of AFL fans was in Paris at Belushi's bar, only 550kms away. Because Emily was going to be there to represent us we thought the drive would be not necessary. Had it been Carlton or Essendon……. After trying in vain to find a PayTV channel that would play the game we conceded defeat and paid the EUR 22.00 to the AFL to watch the game.

The alarm rang at and 6:00am so up I got to fire up the computer and watch the Foxtel pre-game commentary. Didn’t see any of the pre-game entertainment at all. So the next 3hrs was spent watching Channel 7 coverage through Foxtel, Bruce McAvaney et al. After a good start by Adelaide they were eventually succumbed to the relentless Richmond pressure and went down by 48 points – a result that surprised even the most one-eyed Tiger supporters, like Kevin Bartlett.

Directly after the presentations the relay ended, so having already had breakfast during half time, we went back to bed for a couple of hours kip, happy in the knowledge that the Cup was going to spend another twelve months in Victoria. Congratulations to all my Richmond readers and commiserations to all my Adelaide readers.

By the time we got going again it was 1:00pm. We fetched the car and headed to the town of Audrix, about 38kms away. This part of France sits upon quite extensive limestone deposits and near the town of Audrix is a huge underground cavern – the Gouffre de Proumeyssac. We entered the cavern via an elevator that passed through a small opening on the forest floor, the same way the original tourists did more than 150 years ago. We enjoyed a spectacular descent, giving a unique perspective on the structures attached to the cavern floor 50 metres below and the stalactites clinging to the ceiling and walls.

A guided tour started once we reached the floor where we joined others who had entered via a man-made tunnel. Two interesting facets of the tour, one natural and one man-made. In one small pool perfect isosceles triangle-shaped formations had grown over the years. Near the main large pools in the middle of the cavern sat numerous tables of pottery in the direct line of fire of the constantly dripping stalactites above. Over many months the pieces become naturally calcified. The tour was interesting but it turned out be not the one I had intended to visit. We went to the wring cavern! We’ll see if we get to the other one next week.

After Audrix we motored on to the town of Souillac about 25kms East of Sarlat. We has passed through this town on Thursday and Kerry was keen to go back to check it out. Well, it was Saturday afternoon and the town was asleep. Nothing going on at all. We wandered aimlessly around the lanes, found an open bar for a beer and a Perrier, an open chruch and that was about all. By now it was about 6:00pm so we turned for home, catching glimpses of the Dordogne River as we went.

We we arrived back in Sarlat we parked the car in the secret “residents-only free car-park” and went straight home to continued consuming our green cheese and foie gras pâté feast and watch to Grand Fina replay. The Tiges won again!

Friday, 29 September 2017

Sarlat-la-Caneda (Friday 29th September 2017)

A bit of a sleep-in was the order of the day today. Not too much as there was plenty of exploring around the streets of our home town for the next five days. Across the whole day I reckon we never ventured more than 400m in any direction from our front door! But we managed to fill in the whole day without any troubles!

Down Rue de la Republique we wandered for no particular reason, stopping at Place du Quatorze Juillet to watch an old gentleman directing traffic. He had his day-glow orange vest, a pair of binoculars and a notepad. He would put the binoculars up to his face, write something on his notepad and wave the cars through. I reckon he might have been a traffic policeman in his earlier life but was replaced by the traffic lights at the intersection a long time ago. He was certainly one croissant short of a picnic.

Not much was on offer down the street so we did an about face and walked up the  other side of the road. Passing a ladies fashion shop a skirt hanging on display in the shop window caught Kerry’s eye. She was still missing something for very warm days, which today already was. I broke out the shorts for the first time this morning and was glad I did. The mature lady in the shop offered great assistance and advice and Kerry was able to supplement her wardrobe with something more appropriate to the weather in the south-west of France.

From there we explored he lanes and alleys in the area directly behind our apartment. It is so good to be right in the middle of town! Hidden in the lanes between the tall medieval buildings are countless restaurants, cafes, galleries, fashion shops and a few souvenir shops. It is truly a photographer’s nightmare1 Every corner you turn, every passage you pass through, every square you cross there are fantastic street-scapes that just have to be captured. This is no exaggeration. There are so many WOW moments everywhere you look. I’ve no doubt it was at it’s absolute best today – blue sky, an abundance of sunshine and warm but not too hot. Not so many of those pesky tourists, either! Of course we stopped for a beer, with a coffee chaser.


Through a little passage back towards the main street we passed a shop selling local cheeses with enticingly placed sample of many of the cheeses with sight of the passers-by. We tried a few. They were all so flavoursome but the verte one won the day over rouge one. I think the former was blended with pistachio and the later with tomato. EUR 16.00 we walked away with 350gms, looking forward to dinner.We found an old building with a few fresh food vendors inside. The building was secured at night by what must surely be the world’s largest doors. See the pic above. In there we found a chap who made nougat and macarons. So, that was dessert sorted!

Jill, one of Kerry’s sewing girlfriends back in Bendigo, who travels to France each year (to supports her husband, an importer of French product) had told her of a craft store in Sarlat so we set off to find it. My navigation skill must be getting dusty because we walked off in completely the wrong direction. :( . That’s what accounted for us getting so far away from our apartment! Once our bearings had been sorted we ventured back into town, with a little detour. Seeing some steps we walked up them to see what was there. Another little lane that had a dusty old Red Cross “store” - more like a garage full of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. I found a little pewter vase which I thought would look good on the kitchen bench at home with a single rose in it. Kerry couldn’t see it but one day she’ll thank me. Kerry found a black and white bangle she liked. Altogether, EUR 1.50. We gave the volunteer a EUR 2.00 coin and told her to keep the change. Such generosity!

Onwards we walked, both happy with our purchases, eventually finding the store we’d been looking for. Kerry spent fifteen minutes in there but come out empty-handed. She’d done pretty well in Annecy the day before! My gaze wandered further down the street and to my dismay spotted the point from where we’d started this quest not two minutes walk away. Oh! The navigational shame! But anyway that little effort gives you some idea of maze-like streets of Sarlat. Further on into the alleys and passages we wandered popping out on a terrace just above the Cathédrale Saint-Sacerdos. We walked down the terrace to the lovely music of a chap playing an ancient instrument of some sort into the church. Churches always provide a great chance to escape the heat or the rain or the noise or the tourists for a few minutes and I’d highly recommend that you visit one every day if you’re traveling in this part of the world. Pray, if you’re so inclined, or just enjoy a moment of peace while you admire the art and the skill of the artisans of so many centuries ago.

Given that Sarlat is in the heart of the Périgord Nior region of France which is famous for its duck and goose produce we need to get a goose figurine to join all the others on our kitchen bench and we need some foie gras pâté to supplement dinner. Kerry knew of a store that sold both so we strolled over there, stopping at the gelati store on the way! Having picked up our produce we ducked (Ha, no pun intended!) across the street to the Carrefour for some other essential – more wine, more Perrier, a baguette, olives and gherkins. Dinner was ready! Before that we took the change to explore the other side of Rue de la Republique. This was the steep side of the old town, mostly given over to private homes and apartments with the odd restaurant/cafe and hotel here and there. No less interesting, however.

Back the main street, heading home, we stopped by a store that sold locally made leather goods. I’d seen a leather jacket in the window when we walked by yesterday so stopped for a closer look and to try it on. It was just one size too small (or I was one size too large. It will fit in six months time, I guarantee!) and the only one left. Kerry urged me to look at another one she liked, so I did and it was just right. So I bought it. It’ll go so well with the Vespa! Can a béret be considered to be a crash helmet? The shop was literally next door so up the creaky wooden stairs we went to prepare our evening feast and reminisce about the great day.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Annecy to Sarlat-la-Caneda (Thursday 28th September 2017)

Today was all about getting from the département of the Haute-Savoie to the département of the Dordogne – a journey of 550kms and 5h40m. It took longer than that. We left the hotel at 08:50am and hit the freeway pretty much straight away.

There were very few highlights today as you can imagine but I’ll try to make the report at least a little bit interesting. The scenery as we descended from the  Haute-Savoie remained quite spectacular for the first hour or so, particularly one mountain range near Chambéry, which was beautifully set off by the dead calm Lac du Bourget. A few fishermen were trying their luck in boat ob the water.

Somewhere near the Lyon peripherique, GPS-girl became confused by roadworks again. As is her habit, her re-direction put us back in the same place 15 minutes later so we parked in a shopping centre car-park to develop a plan of action. Again we fell back on Plan B – Google-girl. She’s more up to date than GPS-girl and got us through the roadworks and onto what looked like a pretty new stretch of freeway. We were away again! A stop for fuel was imminent but we bypassed two opportunities in search of one that would serve something resembling breakfast. The last chance petrol station was a BP and although it was better than the previous two it was not quite what we were after but we stopped anyway.  It seems that if you was 95 unleaded in France it has to be 95-E10 or you pay a premium for 98. I did the latter on this occasion until I read the car manual to see if 95 E10 is OK. I suspect it will be since I’m now in a French car in France.

Onwards we drove around Lyon through many tunnels, most quite short at about 300m, some longer at 3500m and one really long one that must have been more than 7000m. Kerry was driving now, by the way. At some point, near Thiers in the Puy-de-Dôme département, we duly followed GPS-girl’s instruction to exit the freeway and wound up on some little back-road in the middle of nowhere. After some more suspect instructions we eventually stopped her complaining by being on the “right” road. It was a route of third grade roads through tiny villages, fields of grazing cattle and horses and having to pull over to let tractors go by. I was on a perfectly good freeway. Surely this can’t be the fastest way to Sarlat! Eventually we got in touch with the freeway again and motored on.

The route took us along a very quite stretch of freeway, with no trucks, where one could actually use the cruise control. Cruise control in Germany and France is not that useful as you’re forever slowing down, speeding up and changing lanes to pass slow trucks. This route took us up to about 1000m of elevation through France’s volcanic region and across many deep gorges. It was a very picturesque drive.

I was back driving and was starting to get pretty weary so we pulled over at a proper Shell truck stop for a breather and a change of driver. While the I was able to speak with out host, Denis Dejean, via Skype SMS and voice to advise our arrival time. He was out of town but had arranged for a friend to meet us at the apartment at 5:00pm. This was our second AirBnB accommodation, the first being in St. Margen.

Kerry took over the driving with only 100kms to go. The first part was easy and then we turned off onto the road to Sarlat. It was a narrow, twisting road through the hills. Kerry wasn’t feeling too comfortable on the small roads so I took over for the last 25kms. We were happily following the big signs to Sarlat when GPS-girl decided more third grade roads would be in order, so we went along with her again. I’ve got to say it was a fun last 15kms to drive!

We arrived in Sarlat at 4:40pm and found our rendezvous point. The first park we found was right outside our apartment which is in the main street, Rue de la Republique, right in the heart of the old town. What a fantastic location! Denis’ friend, a young girl about Emily’s age, turned up at about 5:15pm and showed us into the 2nd floor apartment in a very rustic building complete with a creaking, wooden spiral staircase. Full of character! A drink at a nearby bar ans a pizza at home suffice for dinner tonight. Tomorrow will be spent exploring the town.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Annecy (Wednesday 27th September 2017)

My most humble apologies to GPS-girl. She couldn’t find the street the hotel is in because of user error. We had entered Annecy as the town when in fact it should have been Cran-Gervier – a district of Annecy. Sort of like entering 4 Ninnes Crt, Bendigo rather than 4 Ninnes Crt, Maiden Gully. Oh well, Plan B worked.

This morning we skipped (missed) breakfast so we drove into Annecy to find some. We parked the car and got our first glimpse of Lac D’Annecy. It was a lovely sunny and warm morning. A light mid-morning haze still hung over the lake and the enormous mountains behind it. I was pretty certain it would burn off as the day worn on. Into the old town we went, strolling past one of the canals for which Annecy is well known. Indeed the town in known as “The Venice of the Alps”. Yes, there is some resemblance between the two cities thanks to Annecy’s one main canal that leads from the lake, the old stone buildings, cobble-stoned lanes, little bridges here and there and numerous cafes with canal-side dining. It’s a very attractive, beautifully set town. The Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo is also attractive and beautifully set but I’s balk at calling it the MCG of Central Victoria.

We found one of those canal-side cafes and ordered a coffee and croissant. What a pleasure it is to be back in a place where, when one sits down at a table, an attentive waiter is immediately on hand, takes your order with a smile, serves your coffee and croissant with a smile and leaves the bill on a saucer on your table. I so wish we would adopt this in Australia – the world capital of the coffee culture. Eating the lovely croissant also meant feeding our new best friends – a couple of dozen sparrows. Kerry had fun feeding them as did the woman we had helped earlier in the car-park who had happened to end up a the same cafe.

We went off for a snoop around some souvenir shops a picked up a thing or two. Then it was down to the lake for a better look at it. On the way there, next to the other canal, we stopped to watch the local gents play a couple of ends of
petanque. It’s more or less lawn bowls on a dirt “green” where one throws the “bowl” at the “jack”. I don’t know how the scoring works but there was lots of men and women standing around measuring distances and discussing whether “bowl” A in closer than “bowl” B. Just like lawn bowls, but without the expense of a green and a green-keeper. The same observation could be made about the Frenchman’s preference to play tennis on clay, I suppose. Smart chaps, them Frenchies.

Down at the lake-side we hired a paddle-boat (again) and spent 30 minutes out on the dead-flat, crystal-clear water enjoying the sunshine and the unique view. We strolled down the path underneath the ancient plane trees just so we could soak in more of the spectacular scenery whether it be the cloud-capped peaks, the broad, green lawn down to the lake or back to the towers and spires of the old town.

By now it was lunch-time so we found a little sandwich bar that made up tasty, fresh baguettes with you choice of fillings. Kerry had found a wool shop but it didn’t open until 2:00pm so we killed some time wandering around. In that time she also found an open haberdashery shop. So in we went. She had great fun looking through the store and conversing with the ladies behind the counter. After a while she settled on some material and ribbon to get her started on a new Christmas project she’d seen displayed in the shop’s window. Watch this space.
The wool shop was open now so in there we went. I immediately found the “husband chair” and let the women get about their secret craft business. After much discussion Kerry walked out with a bag of full of wool and a pattern book in French. Some translation work for you Emily when we all get home!

The haze and cloud had lifted down at the lake so we went there again for some more photos. The sky was a beautiful blue with just a few clouds floating by. Lounging in the grass in the sun I wandered if the rocky mountain tops were use as launchpads for hang-gliders. No sooner had the thought entered my head when I spied a distant spec high over the mountain and then another and another until we had counted at least a dozen up them way up there. The breeze by lake was just a zephyr and the day had warmed to 25C. It seemed perfect conditions for  hang-gliding. Over twenty minutes the thermals carried them closer to the lake and I was able to get some photographs with the telescopic lens.

Since it was such a lovely afternoon we decided to take a drive by the lake. First we drove down the western shoreline for about 10kms, got some more photos and a tee-shirt for me at a sports store in Sévrier. The we drove around to the eastern shore to the village of Menthon-Saint-Bernard where all the rich folks live if the houses and the boats moored on lake are anything to go by. The sun was almost set by now so we headed for home and an early night before tomorrow’s long drive to Sarlat-le-Caneda.