2019 CHENES LIEGES

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Well it’s that time again and we’re packing up the car for another sea crossing and drive to the South of France. Actually it seems like we have been on holiday already, as we spent a week away in Wales with all the family, followed by Easter weekend and the best weather I can remember for April, with lots of BBQs with all the family including Jean’s sister Julie, for 11 or 12. I have to say all these were contributing factors but the main reason and indeed pleasure was…..the Easter Parliamentary Recess, and the absence of Brexit at every turn – not just the MPs but Laura Kuenssberg and co, our parliamentary correspondents, who were either on holiday as well, or collapsed in a heap from exhaustion. Life without the B word!!!! At least for a while.

Reasonable sea crossing – a bit rough in the middle of the channel – but approached Roscoff to be welcomed by the sunrise  through the cabin window. 0B7EBD94-CE4E-4838-AFF7-18D9BA0D9F5B.jpeg

It’s April 26th and the long drive commences, to reach Chenes on 28th – 890 miles. Stopped at St Amande Montrond as usual, and then at Gignac. Traffic not too bad but  heavier in some areas because of  school holidays  Heavy rain at times, but bright sunshine as we reached the South. Unpacked car, walked at the sea and had takeaway pizza and the inevitable bottle of rose. My dry January page seems a long way off!!

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Quite cold in the evening, and indeed the next morning 29th April was a chilly 5 degrees but beautiful at dawn :

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Early start on the unpacking, cleaning, gardening in the hot sun, but cold wind. I made a start on converting the garden into something a bit more presentable, while Jean started on the windows.

Couldn’t believe the news today that the very ship we sailed over on had an engine fire two days later, on it’s way to Santander, and the French navy were called in to help extinguish it. Read all about it here.

A walk along the sea at Cavalaire gave us an appetite, and after all our efforts a meal out at the infamous Oasis right on the beach fitted the bill nicely, although we ate inside.

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Tuesday 30th April was again a chilly start but the sun soon warmed us up. Fortunately the air conditioning also does heating, which we needed first thing. Gardening and cleaning were again first on the agenda and the house is looking a bit tidier all round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first big shop at Carrefour was then duly accomplished, followed by a surprisingly easy visit to Lidl at Cogolin, although it took 2 circuits of the small car park to find a space. Delicious BBQ of tuna steaks rounded off the day, washed down with with suitable rose coloured liquid.

Wednesday 1st May and it is Labour Day here in France and schools and most businesses are closed. These are library pictures, but look at the caption on the left – rather familiar sentiments.

 

 

 

 

Fortunately the splendid Villa Verde garden centre  was open, as we needed to purchase a plant for our neighbour’s 81st birthday party. It was a lunchtime event, very enjoyable, but we managed to leave around 3.30 for a walk at Gigaro along the sea. Evening meal outside.

Thursday 2nd May started only a tad warmer, but plenty of sun. More cleaning and gardening and it should all be shipshape by the weekend. News from home was a broken bone in Daisy’s wrist after a fall in the playground. With all the renovations going on in the house it never rains but……….!

 

 

 

 

Not as bad as the last time on the right 6 years ago.

Great walk around Cogolin Marina – quite exhausting, but not bad enough to have a great BBQ of scallops and black pudding – Bourdin noir is the French version, although it is not quite the same in texture. A sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing on Sunday night for Gill and John.

Friday 3rd May started with quite a lot of cloud and not quite so warm.

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After a great walk at Ste Maxime along the seafront, we then went to the new Lidl there, which was rather disappointing, although it did have a good stock of our favourite red win albeit at the higher price of £2.60 a bottle! In the evening we went out chez Rob and Pauline, with Leslie and Stuart for some delicious seafood chowder and a game of cards. Great evening.

Saturday 4th May started with a walk at Port Grimaud with a rather expensive drink on the way round. Jean has a Schweppes Agrume (citrus fruit flavour) and I have black tea with cold milk. The tea comes in various shapes and sizes, the milk is sometimes boiled which has (partly) cooled down, but then it’s hardly the national drink here. So far the lowest price has been 7.70 euros (£6.65) and the Port Grimaud was a whopping 8.80 euros (£7.59) – none of them cheap but you do pay for the expensive St Tropez bay surroundings. Then to Grand Frais to get a few more provisions for tomorrows BBQ.

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That evening was our first musical event.

Excellent entertainment with an amazing pianist. Brilliant playing without any histrionics. The singer was also good and her trombone sound and impression with the microphone provided variety.  We were certainly the only English there and after the usual late start and speeches they went on till 11.15 so late night for us.

Sunday 5th May. We were awoken early  by the sound of wind and rain, and I dashed outside to rescue some of the items left outside. It was, as usual, Market day in Croix Valmer, and after the rain had stopped we walked there along the old railway line – now a cycle and walking trail. Still very windy and the market was notable for the lack of stall roof covers. Tea and Agrume at the Fountain cafe (average cost!) before we returned along the trail. Fortunately the wind moderated, as we had a BBQ planned for the evening. Gill and John were in good form and we managed the nibbles and main course (scallops, black pudding, sausage, ratatouille, rice and asparagus) on the terrace before retiring inside for the pud and cheese.

The main attraction on Monday 6th May – Bank holiday at home, but we had ours last Thursday – was the removal of 2 giant umbrella pines about 35 metres from our house. A giant crane was deployed together with 2 large lorries and trailers. Due to the proximity of the other houses, each large bough and the sections of the main trunk had to be lowered into the lorries by the crane. We watched the operation all morning, and amazingly they finished both by 2 pm.

 

 

 

 

The main event was then usurped by the appearance of Hoopoes in the forest opposite and gathered in our neighbour’s garden we watched their comings and goings from a hole in a dead tree and presumed there  was a nest in there. Magnificent sight especially their pink, black and white crests. Photos by courtesy of my neighbour Rob.

 

 

 

 

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google pic!

Tuesday May 7. Cold start at 5 degrees. Looked up St Austell and it was 6 deg. Hmm……….. Went walking at Port Grimaud and called in at Villa Verde Garden Centre mainly to admire their fantastic selection of plants, and bought some begonias. Then walked around the site and took note of the great shrubs and flowers. Photinias seem to all flower here (must be the sun) and some great succulents.

 

 

 

 

Another evening BBQ of salmon and yet more black pudding – it definitely goes with anything. Had to eat inside as it was a bit chilly and watched some episodes of 1980’s Yes Minister, which were incredibly funny – maybe not as hilarious as the recent pantomimes in the House of Commons – but definitely stood the test of time.

Wed8thMay and another cold start and a cloudy day for a change. It is another public holiday and the reason remains a mystery. Tomorrow is Europe Day – maybe a clerical error – or it might be something to do with the 2nd world war. TBC as they say! Most shops closed but Geant Casino open for a shopping trip to stock up on more wine and Ricard (in case of visitors you understand) and food for the next few days. We prefer smaller supermarkets – as there is not so much choice – but needs must and it took us longer. Managed a walk at Cavalaire with the threat of rain dressed in our winter clothes from home. Our favourite Take-away is there, so duly picked up our pizza and returned home to warm up. Ate inside again, which was just as well as the rain arrived and hopefully heralding an improvement in the weather to come. More hilarious Yes Minister to finish the day.

Still raining at 6 am next day, Thursday 9th May, but by 7 it was bright sunshine and everything started to dry out. It was our day for a bus trip and we duly caught the no. 7803 at 10.25 to Le Lavendou.

After our customary Deux Pains aux Raisins on the sea wall we did the walk to Port Bormes. Great scenery in beautiful warm weather, which is due to last according to the forecasters here.

 

 

 

 

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On the way back we had a rather late lunch at a seafront bar and thought a light bite would suffice. As you can see a salad turned out to be anything but light!

Shook it down hurrying off to catch the 15.05 bus back to Chenes.

Eat outside again, and from now on we hope.

The change to warmer weather was confirmed today, Friday 10th May, as the temperature is up in the 20’s with cloudless skies. Bit of gardening and cleaning to start the day and, after a walk and lunch, we are off to the beach. Checked pool temperature and it’s 18 – 2 degrees warmer than the sea. Pool for a swim tomorrow hopefully.c de f

This evening it’s off to Ste Maxime for Jazz at the Table. This time of year it’s an easy drive, and the Cafe de France was busy and eventually completely full. Nice meal and enjoyable playing, particularly in the second half.

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Formed in 1967 as a dance Band ‘The Bowler Hats’ they converted to Jazz and became known as the Bowler Hat Jazz Band. Three of them are original members (that’s 52 years)!!

 

 

 

 

Before we set off for the jazz, we noticed the drain system was becoming blocked, and by the next morning Saturday May 11th it was completely useless, and we were unable to use toilets and shower. As luck would have it , it was the site caretaker’s day off, so I took off the manhole cover (6 inches deep and rather brown) and tried, without success  to  unblock it. I mentioned it to my neighbour’s wife who was talking to another French lady, and this same lady, Rosina by name, who was dressed up to go out, got stuck in with a broom handle and hey presto…it flowed slowly away. No pics available  !!!

Started the day again, this time with ablutions, and then went to Port Grimaud Sud for another walk by the sea, and called in at one of our favourite cafes for some refreshment, where it was not only the nicest cup of tea of the trip, but the cheapest, at 6.90 for tea and a Schweppes Agrume, of the holiday so far.

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Even out of season the traffic can build up and parking is often a problem. Found the answer in Grimaud Sud – buy a Fiat 500.

 

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In the evening a very strong wind blew up and although we ate outside we had to retire inside for dessert, and chuckle our way through another 2 episodes of Yes Minister.

Took the thermometer down to the pool and it registered 19.5 C – high enough for a hardy Brit, so I donned the swimmers and took the plunge. First in the pool this year I am told. Sea is only 16 so that may have to wait for a bit.

 

 

Sunday 12th May and nearing the half way mark for this trip. Wind thankfully dropped so went to La Mole, a quiet village about 8 miles inland, and had a great walk through the vineyards.

Went for another swim and a fellow swimmer told me she had been in since April 17th and in the sea as well. So much for my claim yesterday!

Monday 13th May. After a rather sleepless night, I decided to  get a doctor’s appointment as the itching and rash that had been with me most of the holiday. affecting nearly all my body, was getting decidedly worse. Allergy, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, PMR flare up…..better find out and get some help. The doctors here in our part of France have an open space, usually an hour, each day and you just turn up and he or she will see you – it seems that very rarely you might have to wait  until the next day. Mmmm….what a difference to home.

After consulting one of the permanent residents here we chose our doctor at Cogolin, turned up at 11.15 and was seen at 11.45. Rather a ramshackle waiting room, but nice well equipped examination room and an excellent doctor who spoke better English than most of us. Came away well satisfied, with some pills, ointment and special non allergen soap. Who pays? Well I do – 40 euros for the doctor and 18.50 for the pharmacist and in each case they give you a form to claim the money back on the European Health card on return to UK. Don’t think we will have left Europe by then, if ever!!!

Tuesday 14th May. 03476B69-2CE5-4BA0-8124-C2B879C4A195

Another routine day (feeling better already by the way) and a walk at Port Cogolin, although not the warmest of days. cup of tea overlooking the harbour,

We had an invitation for afternoon tea next door at Lesley and Stuart’s house with the Oxfords. A bit like the Ritz with beautiful sandwiches, cakes etc., champagne to drink (not for me consigned to orange juice for medical reasons) and great conversation. All of a sudden 3 hours had passed! More Yes minister to finish the day laughing again.

 

Wed 15th May. Cold day and set off to Ste Maxime for a walk dressed in warm clothes and anoraks, not knowing it was the Festival of Ste Maxime that day.FFD64946-9862-47EA-8F0B-3D17D7FCC460

As we arrived there was a long procession in local traditional dress accompanied by extremely loud explosions which turned out to be fireworks. Lots of people and police and smoke.

 

Stopped at a popular cafe for our morning refreshment to watch and listen in between loud bangs. We were informed by the waiter that this continues for the next 2 days as well.  It’s not a national holiday, so school and work continues, although the waiter doubted that many would make it to work the next day while they recovered!

Another walk in the evening (after checking on the nesting hoopoes in the forest) to Cavalaire, picking up a pizza on way home.

Thursday 16th May, and a great walk from Croix Valmer to the beach at Debarquement through the vineyards and forest. Great scenery and a stop at Oasis on the beach for a very reasonable morning Agrume and tea. A new entry – going straight into the charts at No 2 at a reasonable 7 euros. Leader is still Grimaud Sud at 6 euros 70.

 

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On our way back we did a bit of shopping and saw this sign on a notice board!!  There’s obviously an official party in the coming elections – be interesting to see if they get many votes, although we’re a long way from Paris and so are this party methinks. However, recent polls suggest that  33 percent would like to leave and 45 percent stay – closer than I thought. Nicolas Sarkozy’s stepson (son of 3rd wife) is a supporter of UPR which want France to leave, and has reportedly made a donation to Nigel Farage’s campaign, although on further research it amounted to only £25. Mr Sarkozy has of course other things to worry about with his impending trial.

 

 

The seasonally cold weather continues today May 17th, and we set off with anoraks and gloves this morning to explore the area near Gassin, by the old station. Lots of vineyards and quiet lanes, a rather quiet, pastoral ambience.  

carrefour  Hot tea on return and then off for a big shop at Carrefour – hopefully the last one. We have had news that Lyn Challis may arrive tomorrow, so we went down armed with brushes and shovels to clean the patio and entrance. The Hoopoe has been seen several times today flying backwards and forwards to the nest with food in beak for the babies. Sort of unreal to have such an exotic species almost on the doorstep.rain

Our decision whether to eat outside or in was taken away from us by the rain and when we woke up the next day (Sat. 18th May) the patio and garden were extremely wet and we had to clean up and dry out the tables and chairs. No need to water the plants though!

Tomorrow we are hosting 2 Belgian couples nearby for a lunchtime apero, which here is drinks and snack type lunch. Starts 12 noon and often ends after 4 pm. Weather forecast is at the moment showing a 30 percent chance of showers so we are hoping for the other 70 percent ! Last trip to supermarket for one or two additions to our already overloaded fridge, after our usual walk (yes, anoraks and gloves again).
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A word on fuel prices here and at home. Of course, the exchange rate (down 10 percent since we got here) and where you buy it, are 2 important factors, but in general petrol here is more expensive and diesel slightly cheaper. Roughly petrol is often about £1.36 a litre and diesel £1.27. Where we live is an expensive area with prices to match, so in other areas it may be cheaper, but not by much.

19th May and all hands on deck to prepare for our guests for lunch. Rain again in the night so the decision is – whether to eat inside (not much room) or out on the patio. Slight improvement so decided to eat on the balcony with the electric roof  over.

rainy lunch2 All laid up and ready to go and our guests arrive suitably dressed in coats and anoraks. The weather got worse and by the end it was thunder and heavy rain. One lady was suffering with the ‘flu so we got her a hot water bottle! So with great joviality we had a good 3 hours, finishing with Xmas cake.

 

After a lot of washing up and 40 winks, we took an evening walk at Cavalaire to finish the day and then went home to eat up and drink some of the leftovers. More laughter while watching Yes Prime Minister.

Monday 20th May and yet more rain in the night although showing signs of clearing up. Walked to Port  Grimaud Sud – no rain but cold enough for coats. More great sightings of the Hoopoe in the forest – there are 2 of them visiting the nest all the time with food for the young – and they have been christened Harry and Megan by the neighbours.

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Here’s a reminder of what we spend so long observing – photo courtesy of Bestley Wildlife Photographers.

 

Each visit by this male brings what looks like long worms in its long bill.

 

Lyn Challis has arrived with the Osgoods (St Austell friends) so more socialising in store.

 

Called in at our favourite garden centre called Villa Verde and couldn’t resist another picture of the beautiful flowers.

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Slightly better weather in the evening and BBQ’d some scallops and black pudding. More hilarious Yes Prime Minister.

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At last a sunny start to today, Tuesday 21st May, and it’s off to Gigaro for a walk by the sea. Nice but still a cold wind off the sea. In among the vineyards is much more sheltered.

 

The Hoopoes are attracting a lot of our attention with both male and female coming and going with food for the babies.

FRANCE-POLITICS

The French government could be about to scrap its highly unpopular 80km/h limit on secondary roads. A bit of a policy U-turn as it was introduced to make driving safer. However, it seems highly likely that there will be a return to the 90 km/h limit. It was one of the major concerns of the Yellow Vest movement so will probably be seen as a climb down.

Many of the people living in rural areas in France see the limit as nothing more than a way for the government to make money from them via speeding fines, and speed cameras became a major target for the ‘yellow vests’ in the early days of the movement.

Great evening with Lyn and the Osgoods – all of us from St Austell – outside most of the time but the cold wind drove us in for dessert.

Wed May 22 was sunny from the start, no wind, and with promise of more of the same, we set off for St Tropez for a walk through the Port and along the coast. Quite warm and good exercise for us clambering along the coastal footpath. One of the joys of coming early to this region of France is the lack of traffic jams, and the lack of mosquitos.

After a light lunch it was time to start on some of the jobs I have been putting off for the last 3 weeks. Some easy , and then there’s the automatic watering system!!

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Super-glued the 2 joints that have failed the last two years so that’s a start. It’s a bit like us – it’s not getting any younger. There are two major arteries, supplying 22 various containers large and small. It’s supposed to look like this, or rather this is the label on the box!!

 

More on the Gilets Jaune campaign and a quote from France 24. We are keeping ours safely locked in the car.

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Back in November, observers speculated the movement wouldn’t last a month. Six months on, Yellow Vest protesters are still pounding the pavement, weekend after weekend, all over France. Massive at its inception, the fluorescent wave of demonstrators – initially a backlash against a proposed fuel-tax hike, the movement was named for the high-visibility safety apparel French drivers must keep in their vehicles – drew 300,000 into the streets and onto the country’s roundabouts during those early, heady weekends.

But even as the marching weather improved through the spring, attendance has dwindled markedly. Saturday’s 27th edition – or “Act”, in Yellow Vest parlance – saw 15,500 protesters in the streets, according to the French interior ministry’s count, or 41,000 according to organisers.  In Paris, where fiery rioting made global headlines over the winter, only 1,600 turned out to march on Saturday, the ministry estimated”.

Incidentally the french press have used this photo of Theresa to describe her latest Brexit offer:

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Brexit : la presse britannique tire à boulets rouges sur le nouveau compromis de Theresa May

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