Chenes Lieges May/June 2016


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Friday, May 13th set off for Plymouth at 6.30 am for rearranged ferry which was cancelled the previous day due to the Pont Aven breaking down! Great crossing and met a few friends. Stayed night in Roscoff and found nice café on the beach. Weather was quite cold.


Sat. May 14th set off in the car to drive 400+ miles to our first stop at St Amand Montrond. The Noirlac Motel is very convenient just off the auto-route and situated on a lake next to the river Cher.

Sunday, May 15th set off in the car for the last 450 miles to our hideaway near St Tropez. Amazing lack of traffic which we discovered later was due to the impending lorry driver’s strike. We took the scenic route through the mountains and across the Milau Bridge. After the cold north of France the weather became warmer and sunnier and as we made the breath-taking descent into Montpelier the temperature was suddenly 27 degrees. Long drive but worth it in the end, helped by the deisel at 83p per litre and 53 mpg in Jean’s Skoda! Arrived at Chenes-Lieges at 5 pm and after unpacking we were treated to dinner at our neighbours Lyn and Rod Challis from St Austell.


Monday, May 16th. Woke up to bright sunshine and spent most of the day unpacking the car and clearing the garden. After a big shop at the local supermarket and Lidl we walked to Cavalaire in the evening. Could get used to this lovely warm weather. Forecast is good for the next 10 days and getting hotter.

Tuesday May 17th. Gardening in earnest to clean, fill and fertilise our many pots and troughs around the house. All the plants we had brought were not enough so we set off for the garden centre for more. Of course Villa Verde (our choice centre) was an absolute picture with everything about 2 months ahead of mine. Garden is now taking shape. Walked to Port Grimaud and ate outside again.

Wed. May 18th started with more gardening and Jean got stuck into cleaning the windows. Mornings are the time for work as it is too hot later on. Another visit to the supermarket and more gardening was followed by a nice walk at Gigaro Beach and a nice fish meal on our veranda. Chased a feral cat out of the bedroom!

Eastern Corner of garden

Eastern Corner of garden

Thursday May 19th. Very bright sun while finishing the windows and tidying and watering the now fully planted garden. Trimmed pine hedge with trimmer brought from home. Got out garden furniture, beautifully cleaned by Jean, and BBQ – house and garden almost organised so we can enjoy it. Since we are in a pine forest the daily task is to sweep up the pine needles especially if there is a breeze. Invited to the Bowlts for dinner tonight – Brian and I were in the Scouts andchurch choir 50+ years ago. Gradually catching up with the news. Our immediate neighbours are stuck here until the strikes are over so they can make their medical appointments in Northern France. They should be on the train today. Next family along have just returned from wedding in Champagne – James and Claudine are often the life and soul of the street. Tuned rather windy so patio and veranda will have to be swept again!  

                                                                                                                                              View from veranda and Sunrise 


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Remodelled kitchen








Friday May 2oth. Much warmer today without the wind and the most difficult job was reconnecting the automatic watering system for the garden – done but not tested yet! Jean did more cleaning up and organising and I re-swept  the garden after yesterday’s wind, while keeping an eye on the texted cricket from Headingly and the Bdiairstow show. First swim of the season in the pool and not surprisingly I was the only one in today. Walked 3 miles at Cavalaire and dinner on the veranda to finish the day. Watched darling Buds of May DVD – great memories of the 80’s – turned out to be 90 minutes long so after midnight finish.


Saturday 21st May. Morning walk at Port Cogolin – healthy start to the day, but now back to cleaning and more garden work. You can tell it’s Saturday in France by the number of cyclists on the road and trails. Another visit to the pool – slightly warmer – then took a load of rubbish to the dump – the house is getting larger by the day. Dinner at Les Sarments with the Challis’s which was excellent and refreshingly French. Another late night.

Sunday May 22nd. Went off to Ste. Maxime for a walk and it turned out to be the Paddle Board European Championship Tour which was a first to watch for us. Large  crowd and and Australian winner we think. will explain it. It’s actally the first day we have had some clouds so temperature a nice cool 21. Relocated TV/video/satellite Connections in afternoon – needed doing for years and couldn’t put it off any longer. Swim in pool and then dinner on balcony and a further installment of Fools and Horses.

fruit & veg

Monday May 23rd. Mistral time and very strong and gusty winds. Good day for shopping (above) and found small tables for patio and new seat covers. Meals indoors! No swimming but chanced a walk in the afternoon around Cogolin Marina and just about blown away. Noticed huge queue at petrol station. Think everyone is filling up just in case.  Hopefully it will get resolved, but no sign yet.

a l'aube a l’aube (at dawn)

Tuesday May 24th. Calmer winds, much warmer, and normal life can resume. Had great walk around Port Grimaud and the beach holiday parks before finding some parts for the automatic watering system at the Garden Centre. No TV at the moment so watched text of Murray eventually beating Stepanek in the tennis. Watering system now running better. Swim in pool followed by drinks and dinner on the veranda.


Wed. May 25th. Cleaning and tree trimming before breakfast and then went for walk at Cavalaire. Traffic Jams due to motorists queuing for fuel. Work on house and garden followed by swim in pool. Nice chicken casserole on balcony washed down with rose and bordeaux superior, Fools and horses and bed. Spillage of tea from bedside table on to cable extension caused blackout and frantic hunt for torches. Order and electricity restored after a while. As a consequence, the next day (Thursday  26th May) was a frenzy of activity and Jean spring-cleaned both bedrooms while I cut down some trees which were blocking our nice view of the valley and the hill town of Gassin. After a swim in the pool and a fuitless search for a golden oriole spotted in the woods nearby, we went out for a well deserved Italian meal at Port Cogolin. Early night for a change.

Friday 27th May. Set off early to St Tropez to avoid the traffic as there was a sailing event taking place. Les Voiles Latines are small wooden boats with a special sail configuration and it seems more like a boat show for enthusiats than a race. We walked along the coast from there for over an hour to view the wonderful coastline in glorious sunshine, looking forward to the pain aux raisons from our favorite boulangerie. They were sold out! Back home for a little relaxation for me as Jean did more spring cleaning. Swim in the pool aan got ready for first night out – to Ste Maxime to listen to Jazz in the cafe de France there. It was superb as 3 female singers were accompanied by a very good bass, drum, piano trio. Will be back next week.


Sat. 28th May. Off early to Port Cogolin for a walk as the weather is turning rather warm during the day. Shopped at the Casino on the way back for our first BBQ tonight. Actually got some diesel for the car in case it’s unavailable in the next wave of strikes. Of course that’s the problem – everyone is filling up just in case and the stations can’t cope – but we keep doing it!  Rest of day reading while Jean was cooking for tonight and the visitors next week. Swim in pool for 30 mins and then BBQ tuna steaks washed down with usual liquid. Put everything away in preparation for storm tomorrow.

Sunday 29th May. Woke up to thunder and lightning and torrential rain. Good for the garden! Stuck indoors for a while – Jean doing dishes for next week, Geoff reading and playing flute. Weather finally cleared up and went for a further (unsuccessful) walk to see a Golden Oriole. Evening walk at Cavalaire with lots of debris on the beach after the storm.Ate indoors.

Monday 30th May. Email from John and Olive (Jean’s brother and wife from Philadelphia) to say they would be arriving 6 to 7 pm. Walked at Port Cogolin, the highlight of which was 3 Black Winged Stilts on the beach. Went for big shop for the week of entertaining. Swam in pool. They arrived as planned and  we spent a great evening catching up and celebrating our reunion over some champagne and Jean’s delicious Coq au vin. I’ve got a sore throat with all the talking.

Tuesday 31st May. John’s birthday. After most of the morning was spent over breakfast catching up on family history, we went for a walk at Cogolin Marina and to give our visitors a ‘feel’ for the area. Walked around site and we were about to swim but sudden clap of thunder put paid to that. Off to Gassin for a meal to celebrate the birthday preceded by a little sightseeing. A lighted candle on John’s ice  cream dessert led to ‘Happy Birthday’ from the whole restaurant.

IMG_0509Panoramic view from GassinIMG_20160605_161055176

sisters in law

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New house coming in through the trees!

Wednesday 1st June. A new house being crane-lifted on to the site provided lots of entertainment for the day, and as soon as they could get through, Olive, John and Jean went off to Cogolin market while I had a long walk. I actually heard the Golden Orioles but failed to see them through the trees! The rest returned just in time for our Skype call to Tim and Jonathan and families. After some lunch John, Olive and Jean went to ‘Munro’s’ pub to watch the Murray tennis match and I looked again for the Golden Orioles – probably saw a female (dull colouring) flying but no sign of the handsome male. Keep trying! Quick supper before the Bingo in the clubhouse.  And  to bed.

Thursday 2nd June. Set off early on the bus to St. Tropez and walked along the coast before having delicious pastries from our favourite boulangerie in the back streets of the town. Looked around for a while and then we took the boat to Ste. Maxime for further sightseeing and some lunch. Finally we caught the bus back home which went a circuitous route providing a great local tour for our visitors. Collapsed after this sort of triathalon for the elderly, and read or slept for a while. Swim in pool followed by delicious seafood dish a la Jean.


Tim’s Mum and Dad were delighted at this

Friday 3rd June. After leisurely breakfast, provided by Olive, who walked down to the boulangerie each morning for suitable delicacies, a walk around Cavalaire for Jean, Olive and john while Geoff continued his pursuit of the golden orioles. I met a local lady who pointed me in the right direction but warned me they were very secretive and difficult to see, a situation that  was rapidly finding out the hard way. Did eventually spot one in flight at a distance but could not find in trees – hoping to see one in my lifetime! Went for a swim and then we reassembled for lunch.  John settled down to watch the tennis while the rest went to the Casino supermarket to top up on provisions and buy some tuna fish for a BBQ. Check out was interesting as Olive decided to pay with her credit card and the assistant put it through the till with our receipt and then asked Olive for her passport or driving license, which we did not have. Heated discussion followed, mostly from the other French behind us in the queue, before a phone call to the manager solved it with a signature. Watched Murray win his semi final. The evening was our tuna BBQ which, I must admit was excellent and happened to be John’s favourite dish, thoroughly washed down with suitable liquids.


Saturday 4th June. Off to Port Grimaud for breakfast at the cafe we liked when Alan and Judy were here. Excellent food and service again. We then took a boat ride around the port, which was built in the 1960’s on reclaimed marshland. It resembles a mini Venice with canals and waterways. Had a little sojourn in the church before walking through the back road to the beach and our first encounter with the Vespa international rally taking place over the weekend. Incredible number of Vespas of all vintages.


Jean and John’s sister Julie skyped on our return home and after lunch Jean and I went for a walk (on the lookout for golden orioles again!) and rushed home to the sound  of thunder. Torrential downpours and lightening followed.

IMG_1141Storm time

It soon cleared up, and in the evening we set off to go  to St Maxime to listen and watch the Jazz over dinner. We were a little delayed by large numbers of Vespas, but spent a great evening listening to the Harlem Jazz group from Grenoble while eating a most enjoyable meal.

jazz group ste maximeIMG_20160605_185100752

Fish for Olive!

Sunday 5th June.

Trip to the beach at Gigaro was delayed by the Grand Rally of the Vespas – a mere  5000 of them had to pass over the main road we were on so it took quite  a while. Their website will give you some idea of it :

Then it was home for the main event of the day at the French Open, but unfortunately after a good start Murray could not match the skill of Djokovic. Went to Azur Beach in the evening for scallops and it was excellent as usual.

Monday 6th June. Last day for John and Olive before catching the plane home (Nice-Paris Paris-Newark), and they decided sensibly to leave early and spend the night at the airport for the early flight. All of a sudden they had gone and the house seemed rather empty. Great to see them and we felt honoured (although they would of course have felt one letter less ‘honored’) that they came all the way to see our little piece of paradise. Bon voyage John and Olive! Great swim in the pool (which is getting quite warm now) and an early evening 3 miles at Cavalaire. Tired!

Tuesday 7th June. Off to Ste Maxime for walk and then to Weldons to look for a new outside Storage Box. Didn’t find a suitable one but bought 2 new loungers for the garden in case of more visitors, and 2 beach chairs as well as some sulphuric acid to help the shower drainage. Lazy afternoon and weather turned wet. Ate indoors and watched video.

Wednesday 8th June. Morning preparing for our visitor – Pat Malich, former resident of our street and visiting us for the day. After coffee we went to the Pescadou at Gassin for lunch as she was treating us. The venue of John’s birthday the week before. Pat was   little disappointed as it had changed ownership and her favourite waitress was on a day off. Nevertheless,  Jean and I enjoyed the most delicious tuna. John and Jill Oxford were good company and the 5 of us had a convivial lunch. Now getting seriously hot – 30 at 4pm. Back to Chenes where, after a swim,  we entertained 9 for tea – 2 French, 4 Belgian and the 3 of us. Great fun in both languages. Went for walk around Port Cogolin and spent a peaceful evening with light meal.

Thursday 9th June. Up early and off to St Agulph for a coastal walk.

St Agulph2

Hot again today. Called in Ste Maxime to measure up possible new table. Home for breakfast and a bit of gardening and sun bathing before going to the pool to cool off. Off to  Rob and Pauline’s tonight for dinner. Very late night – nightcaps not good idea!

Friday 10th June. Started on the garden tree trimming as the committe had informed us that they were a fire risk. Amazing amount of debris piled up outside. Had another go at mending the automatic watering system with more success. Off to the supermarket at lunchtime when it is less crowded. Lunch and swim in pool. Evening walk  around nearby woods and quiet night. Problem with DVD player needs attention.

Saturday 11th June. Up early and off to l’Escalet for a walk along the sentier littoral (coastal footpath) to Cap Taillat,  famous for the film Chitty Bang Bang. Great scenery but hard work.

On return had swim in the sea. Rested up before the party to celebrate the Queen’s 90th, but managed a few lengths in the pool. Party was superb with british and union jack decorations and a massive spread of food.

Strangely enough it started at 5 pm – then we realised that this was to allow the footy fans to watch the England game. We  watched it as well although the reception via the computer kept stopping due to overload here and in the area. Good match although the headlines today are all about the violence. Very hot evening still in high 20’s.

Sunday 12thJune. Hot again but walked around Port Cogolin before breakfast. Went to Cavalaire in the afternoon to watch the flyboarding Euro championships. Quite remarkable sight.



Spectacular and dangerous – see here for more

Monday 13th June. Up early and off to Ste Maxime for great walk along the coast to the port, booked jazz for Friday night, and back along promenade for car. Went to Weldom and bought new table for patio which, even thought it was a flat pack, only just fitted in the Skoda – in fact there is probaly a little more interior space than there was before! After late breakfast opened up the packaging and set about assembling from a series of sketches and no words.

Much longer than the old one especially with the insert in place. Dined in baronial style.

Tuesday 14th June. After morning walk around Port Cogolin and Marina, got stuck into phase 2 of the bush and tree clearance in over 80 degrees of heat. Jean cleaned the house. Then a little drama – we had noticed the toilets and shower were running away rather sluggishly and we got the club handyman to take a look – inspection pit full to the brim! Took him quite a long time to clear the blockage and he had to rod through from the neighbours pit. Horrible and hence no pictures. Off for swim and then Rod and Lyn’a for dinner.

Wednesday 15th June. Wet day. Went to find a new Pandora’s box for our outside gear and found one between Cavalaire and Rayol. Just fitted in the car (again!). Went shopping at Carrefour in the pouring rain and traffic jams. Not so bad on the way back. The club AGM , preceded by an extraordinary AGM to approve an updated constitution, then followed at 4pm – takes twice as long, as it has to be in the 2 languages for every report and question.

Thursday 16th June. Dull but dry and off for walk around Cogolin Marine ending up at the Geant Casino  to look for a new DVD Player and bought one – quite cheap and hope it works. Our Dinner Party tonight and with thunderstorms possible we are preparing aoutside and inside tables and chairs. Fingers crossed!







Raining so eating inside tonight. Thai food a la Jean. Midnight finish so pretty late after washing up.

Friday 17th June. Walked to Croix Valmer up the old railway line, despite the late night. Caught the bus back home, although we had to wait 50 mins for one. After a lazy afternoon and a swim in the pool, we went to the jazz at Ste. Maxime and it turned out to be the best yet. Magnificent violin player called Francois Arnaud with very good solo guitar, another guitar and a string bass. Nice meal while we listened and applauded enthusiastically.

Saturday 18th June. Off to Port Grimaud first thing for our longest walk of the holiday so far. In the harbour Jean fancied this boat but I couldn’t afford the auction brochure!


Called at garden centre for a  few bits for the automatic watering system. Great swim in pool and dinner outside on the veranda.

Sunday 19th June. Gigaro for coast walk and then on to the beach and a swim in the sea. Probably the coldest swim for a while! Relaxed in the garden but another thunderstorm drove us inside. Had a good chat with Robbie on Facetime. Ate indoors while watching (courtesy of Margaret and Alec) a very good film on DVD – Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith. We knew the area and Jean had a friend who lived in that street.

Monday 20th June. Back to wall to wall sunshine and we took the bus to St Claire (50 mins and very scenic, standard fare for all journeys 3 euros) and walked to Le Lavandou and then on to Port de Bormes.

‘Walk in the Woods’ is the title of a book by Bill Bryson and that is exactly what we did in the afternoon, in another unsuccessful search for the golden orioles. Pretty hot so the shade of the forest was welcome. Saw a field of beautiful wild flowers en route:

Off to Cavalaire for the evening. Great meal at Pizzaoli – it always amazes us how this family owned restaurant can turn out so much excellent food at a very reasonable price with such efficient service. The Fete de la Musique in the town took place at various venues mostly out doors, but was mostly very loud rock music  and not as good a variety as in the past. The street dancing was good and the seafront and town were packed.

Wednesday June 22nd. Back to Cavalaire early for walk by the sea and round the marina. Usual activities around house and garden, lunch and swim in pool. Pretty hot. Then off to Stewart and Lesley for dinner. Bit late.

Thursday  June 23rd. Cleaned patio first thing and tidied away after gardening. Swim in pool before lunch – water very warm as was the weather. Went for evening walk at Cogolin Port and Marina and it was 33 degrees (that’s 91 in old money) and BBQ’d salmon for supper.

IMG_0679View from our patio with the village of Gassin with one of our bird feeders on the extreme right

Friday June 24th. Couldn’t believe the news from home, thanks, I read, to the  older white voters. Our neighbours are horrified as well, but sympathetic. Early walk at Gigaro followed by beach and swim in the sea. Temperature somewhere between 31 and  35 depending on who you believe! Hot hot hot. Went shopping, could be the last big one, for our dinner party on Monday and now lying directly under the ceiling fan writing this! Lunch and swim in pool and rest up before the long anticipated start of the Festival des Anches (anches are wind instrument reeds. 9 pm start (such is the priority given to dinner here) but more lik 9.30 until the first note. Large 60 piece wind orchestra from the Czeck Republic who were simply superb, playing a great variety of original music including some great wind orchestra classics, and finishing with an arrangement of Benny Goodman Classics. Very good vibraphone soloist.

Home at midnight. What a treat!

Saturday June 25th. Only 1 week left. Up early to do a few jobs before it got too hot. Jean walked alone while I mended the automatic watering system (I think). Off to Croix Valmer again for more Festival music. A parade through the town was followed by three simultaneous concerts in different venues. We took them all in – the Quintette a Vent from Quebec was not the classic line up of instruments and consisted of Eb clarinet, Alto Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, trumpet and trombone with a percussionist. The highlight of the morning was the  Large Street Band from Italy, 10 professional players,  who danced and performed while playing music that captivated us all, 2 trumpets, sousaphone, baritone sax,  alto sax, 3 tenor sax,  and 2 percussionists. What a treat again!

Street Band                            Unusual Wind Quintet

Home to cool off in the pool as it’s over  90 again. Finished day with a beach walk and meal on the patio.

Sunday 26th June. After breakfast headed off to Embarquement for beach walk before the latest concert in the Festival. This time the wind and brass from the Slovenia Orchestra right on the beach.


Met some friends from Chenes and had tea. It’s 33 today although our neighbour tells me it’s 36, anyway it’s hot. Pool gives much relief and then it’s some dinner before heading off for the final concert of the Festival – the Nevada University Wind Orchestra based in Las Vegas. This concert runed out to be incredibly good. The Wind Orchestra were as good as I’ve ever heard, having large numbers of superb players – 8 trumpets, 4 trombones, 4 horns, 2 bassoons and a contra, Harp, 2 oboes and a cor,  keyboard,  2 tubas, 2 euphonioms, 12 clarinets, alto and 2 bass clarinets, 4 flutes and a picc, 7 percussionists and a kit for a couple of pieces, bass guitar, 2 double Basses, etc. As if that wasn’t enough, the best entertainment came from several well-known guest soloists, including the world class saxophonist Eric Marienthal from California. There was a modern jazz quartet, all players of incredible pedigree, and 2 excellent singers – Alphonse Anderson (tenor) and his wife (soprano), there was even an Elvis impersonator, and finally a jazz singer called Anita Asberry – all accompanied by the wind orchestra. A gala performance indeed with an audience of 800 in an outdoor arena – a remarkable facility for such a small town.


Waiting to start,  Jean taking a walk around

As usual the concert, due to start at 9 pm, was late starting and then delayed further by speeches so it was after midnight before we finished , but definitely worth the effort.

Monday 27th June. Up early to do garden , and then took an early morning Facetime call from Robbie, who seems to have mastered Apple Communications. Did another great beach walk at Embarquement before returning home to get ready for our dinner party.

Very successful evening with our neighbours Jose and Arlette, and Rob and Pauline. Jeans Mediterranean Fish Soup went down a treat as did the champagne, and various wines. Great conversations in both langages.Late in bed after all the washing up.

Tuesday 28th June. Not an early start, not surprisingly.Eventually went to Embarquement for a good beach  walk and tea at Oasis. Swam in pool at 7 pm and ate on patio.

Wed. 29th June. Off early to Gigaro for walk with Lyn, while Rod stayed on the beach. Good distance today – took an hour and a half. Nice swim in sea. Back to jobs around the house in preparation for leaving on Saturday and for Wendy’s arrival later in July. A few clouds around so not quite so hot. Realised we had bought quite a few new things for the house – 2 new loungers, new  extendable table for the veranda, 2 small garden tables, new Pandora’s  box with locks, new DVD player, 2 beach chairs, and new seat covers for dining at the new table. Cleaned car and then cooled off in pool, followed by fish dinner on the veranda.

Thursday 30th June. Early walk at Embarquement in the mist, although the sun  did eventually break through. Refreshment at Oasis and off  home for breakfast before cleaning out the cave and Pandora’s Box. Then it’s shopping for presents, wine to bring back and a little food. Swim in pool to cool off and dinner outside. Episode of Darling Buds of May and off to bed.

Friday 1st July.Last day here. Walk at Port Grimaud


before buying one or 2 items for the watering system and some petrol for the journey. Spent most of the day cleaning up, defrosting fridges etc and repairing and retesting the automatic watering system, putting everything away and starting to pack the car. Last swim in pool and, as tradition dictates, evening meal at Les Sarments.

Saturday 2nd July we set off at 9 am to arrive in Cornwall on Monday evening.

Here endeth this holiday blog. Amen.


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