Chenes May/June 2018


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Thursday May 17th    Boat from Plymouth overnight to Roscoff. Car loaded up with luggage and half of my greenhouse plants. As happens with Cricket pitches these days I am inventing the first ‘drop in garden’.

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On board by 7.30 and although the usual pianist was absent we took our place in the main restaurant for a very delicious meal with more than a modicum of wine. Speaking French with the waitress gets us in the mode for the next 7 weeks. Slept well but wish they wouldn’t wake us up so early with that awful music – it’s only to boost their breakfast sales. Huge queues to get off the boat at the passport control – was it Brexit, security concerns or a mixture of both – it never used to be like that. Docked at 8, not on the road ’til almost 9.30 heading for our usual breakfast stop at Bedee, as small Ville d’Etape just off the main road and the taste of our first croissant, although at 11.30 they had gone a little stale. 416 miles later we arrived at St Amande Montrond for the night at the Noirlac Hotel. Traffic was busier than usual mainly due to a strike by the train drivers, and the warning signs on the motorways read ‘Greves SNCF, penser co-voiturage’ (Rail strikes, think about car sharing). Strikes in France are quite frequent and the following chart gives you some idea of the long term planning that goes into them. It is part of a nationwide protest against the French government’s economic and social reforms.

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(They could have saved a bit of red ink by circling the days they might work)

Not as bad though, as when the farmers strike and block the entire road for miles – word has it that they are saving themselves for the holiday season! Not entirely something to look forward to:

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Saturday/Sunday May 19th &20th.    Woke up thinking Royal Wedding, our friend Fiona’s wedding, and Cup Final but spent most of the day in the car. The previous day we had decided to split the rest of the journey and head for Agde, scene of one of our family holidays in 1984, and called in at Pezenas for a spot of lunch on the way. We weren’t very hungry so just a salad should suffice:

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On to Agde and booked into a small hotel by the river. Great fun, but disappointing to find the town depressingly run down, and we were unable to locate the ’84 campsite.

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Hotel was great and we found a nice restaurant on the river (above about the middle), and next day, more importantly, found our way back on to the A9 towards Nice. Sunday traffic fairly light and journey to Chenes was relatively easy. Dialled in the gate code and we were in about 1 pm. Nice warm weather and also welcome by our neighbours. Started to clean up and tidy the house and garden. Dinner with Rose outside on the balcony – blissful start.

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Monday 21st May    Whit Monday here, Whitsun holiday now consigned to the history books in UK.  Sunny start, 24 deg. and out in the garden for more tidying, try to mend the guest toilet (not very successfully), sort out car computer (wasn’t computer’s fault strangely enough), Jean also busy with the house and washing, tea with our old friends and now new neighbours, Leslie and Stewart…. and then….it rained! Oh dear – lunch indoors. Good for the newly planted seedlings anyway. By evening the rain had stopped, so we headed to Port Cogolin for a walk -still quite cloudy but very warm also.

port cogolin 2Called in on our friends the Oxfords with an urgent delivery of 500 PG Tips, and to catch on the news/gossip from the site. Dinner on the balcony again, Rose was there again of course, and then….more rain – heavy this time. Bed to pray for a better day tomorrow, although the forecast is  not good.

News just in from England – Betty decided to try the dishwasher!

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Tuesday 22nd May.    Forecasters got it right – rain, not too heavy  but persistent. Good morning for reading and catching up on jobs. At this rate my automatic watering system will be redundant. Fortunately my Cricketer magazine arrived shortly before we left home so plenty of interesting stuff there to occupy me while rain stops play! Jean registered us at the office while I did the cricket bit, and then we headed off to the supermarket for the first big shop – 161 euros worth – the prices of everything here have gone up regardless of the exchange rate (now 1.14). Lunch indoors again, and the rain actually stopped about 3 pm. A quick look at the computer weather – must be mistaken – St Austell sunny 22, St Tropez drizzle 19. All this way…… !! A couple of hours gardening gave a little respectability to our patio and terrace, and then it was off to Cavalaire for a walk- still gloomy but reasonably warm. Came across a fantastic Bird of Paradise plant outside a restaurant.

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We are actually eating outside tonight – sunshine please return tomorrow.

Wednesday 23rd May.   Looks promising.

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Bright sunshine at last and time to sort out the garden and patio. Hopefully tomorrow’s pics will reflect the change. Cleaning the outdoor furniture, planting and tidying up :-

Early evening walk along the seafront at Gigaro and ate outside (with Rose) to the sound of thunder. Fortunately it stayed in the mountains.

Thursday 24th May.   Warm and sunny and wore ourselves out gardening (me) and cleaning windows (Jean). Shopped for tonight’s BBQ.

Getting there

                                       mesembryanthemums after only 36 hours

First swim in the pool. Word was that it was too cold, but when I arrived with my thermometer it was 23.5 and very nice too.

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All to myself

Time for a little shut-eye before our walk and BBQ.

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Great walk to Port Grimaud via Villa Verde garden centre – without doubt the best I’ve ever visited – and I’ve been in quite a few! As I said last year every plant in there could be used as a magazine front cover.

Espadon (swordfish) was the BBQ with Roast vegetables – quite delicious. Rose was there again and a little Rouge with the Brie to finish

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Friday 25th May. More cleaning and gardening (watering the plants as I have yet to do my annual battle with the assembly of the automatic watering system!)

Off to Ste Maxime to view new toilet and new electric fan with light as we have an important visitor in 10 days time. Bought toilet, fan will have to wait, although we also bought 4 new patio chairs. Walked along the promenade and came home only to realise that we had lost Mum’s glasses and my old hat. Our booking for the Jazz Dinner also in Ste Maxime wasn’t until 8, but we set off early to catch the store before they closed. Found hat but no glasses.   Left phone number in case they were handed in.

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Jazz at the Table was excellent as usual featuring the NEW ORLEANS HOT SHOTS from Switzerland. All the old favourites from a septet of Trumpet, Piano, Clarinet, Trombone, Banjo, Double Bass and drums.

The  waiter recognised us from previous visits and helped to make it a thoroughly enjoyable evening to round off a day of mixed fortunes.

Late night for us.

Saturday 26th May.  Unsurprisingly, slept in next morning – only just in time to wave off our neighbours who are going back to Belgium for some birthdays and a wedding.

Headed for the shower – only to find it was difficult to find a place to leave the soap. We have had various friends and relatives staying over the years and they generally leave a bottle of partly used shampoo in the shower. Silky smooth, untangle, groovy mango, rise and shine, coconut, dermatological magic, total repair – all the adjectives that face us when we enter our shower. No wonder my hair is so grey, I think they have all cancelled each other out! Wish the bar here was equally well-stocked.IMG_2236

Finally selected the ‘Nourish and hydrate’ bottle with coconut extract to moisture, protect and repair. Sounds like the latest cocktail from Bali.

Both had a good swim before lunch, which was taken  at 4 pm owing to our late awakening. However Jean had a unique and very unlucky experience while swimming backstroke up the pool. Mind elsewhere, she collided with the end of the pool,  just where the water outlet is located and her head went into the gap. Coughing and spluttering, she recovered Ok but was heard to say “I thought I was going to drown!”

Had a late walk at Cavalaire, before eating on the patio in near darkness. News of violent thunderstorms at home before I went to bed. Let’s hope they were concentrated on Lords Cricket ground!

Sunday 27th May.   Been here nearly a week – soon flies by when you’re enjoying life. It would be nice to report some good news about the strikes in France at the moment. However, and I quote from BBC Europe “France’s striking rail workers have overwhelmingly rejected government measures to reform the country’s state-owned SNCF company. In a ballot almost 95% of those who voted were against the reforms…Hmmm….not even close !

Swimming in pool, walking around our immediate area, and reading filled most of the day followed by a Salmon BBQ in the evening. Elgar, Dvorak and Karl Jenkins finished off the evening.

Monday 28th May.  5.30 am heard thunder and went out and brought a few things in – just as well as a sharp, short thunderstorm with lightning followed. Plumber came to replace guest toilet – took him less than an hour – he was a Scouse, working in our area, and was still in mourning from their defeat by Real Madrid.

Our bird feeders have been full since we first arrived, but there is a distinct shyness to use them by our feathered friends. The  first arrival was a crested tit, but only great and blue tits have appeared since then.  A bit of a mystery surrounds the fat balls. As far as we know a bird has not been near them, yet they are half eaten. A night feeder perhaps, or another animal? My phone does most things but unfortunately video surveillance is not one of them! We are yet to see one of the golden orioles which, we are reliably informed, reside in the nearby forest, but it’s not for lack of trying now over several years.

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I may have to be satisfied with this beautiful picture of a male golden oriole, as on the RSPB site it states that ‘The golden oriole is very secretive and difficult to see’.

Orages, pluie, éclaircies – Météo qui vous attend cette semaine 

As this headline in the local paper indicates, we have poor weather today and the rest of the week it seems – storms, rain, clear periods – but good for cleaning and gardening. Guest room has had a spring clean and the garden and patio are now larger after some severe pruning of the bushes and trees. Walked round Port Cogolin before meal on balcony.

To bed, hoping the weather men have got it wrong.

Tuesday May 29th.   Prayers answered – bright sunshine! The local Var Matin is in competition with the UK Daily Express for sensational weather headlines.

Off to Ste. Maxime for early walk along promenade and then to Weldom for a further hunt for Jean’s glasses. Good news this time as they were in the lost property box in the office ……………..YIPPEE. les lunettes

Note that an English mobile number here should be quoted beginning with 0033 and leave out the first zero of the actual number.

Tried Lidl in St Maxime for a change. Pretty badly organised – a bit like Cogolin. After brief pit stop at home it’s off to Carrefour for our main shop. Jean still beaming ear to ear complete with glasses!

A few notes about Pedestrian Crossings over here. On the whole drivers will stop – I wouldn’t suggest darting over without a little caution – but beware of motor cycles as they are constantly overtaking the traffic and often in your blind spot and it is their blind spot on the other side of the approaching vehicle. All in all a little caution is advised.

There are some really weird road signs everywhere in Europe (still includes us of course). A good example are bicycle signs:

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Which one stops bicycles entering the road?  The one with the bicycle crossed out would be the logical answer, but WRONG – it’s the other one. The right hand one cancels out a previous left hand sign!  Actually not many bikes seem to take any notice anyway.

More odd roadside gems to follow in future blogs.

After a great swim in the pool, we enjoyed a lovely aubergine curry to finish the day, followed by raspberries and ice cream. Gershwin to round off the evening.

Good night.

Wednesday May 30th.  Early morning walk to Cavalaire and along sea front and harbour. 3 beautiful miles. Dull with odd spot of rain kept us cool. Building work everywhere getting ready for the high season. Back home for breakfast, then  it’s jobs – Jean in the house, giving the kitchen a spring clean, me in the garden. Unfortunately some of our fir trees have been infected with a virus which turns them brown. It seems to be endemic in the area.

Very poor access and bordering neighbour’s garden. 45 mins later the first one came out:

Bad news is that it was the smallest and easiest to remove. Roll on tomorrow!

Good swim in pool and then dinner at Rob and Paulines’ with Stuart and Lesley and ourselves, great food and wine – first class evening and a lot later in bed than normal.

Thursday 31st May.     Gardening jobs and clean up Patio while Jean takes care of the washing and goes for a walk. After lunch the Oxfords came over for tea and Xmas cake (carefully preserved and transported). Great couple of hours of laughter and interesting gossip! Covered everything – including Armageddon! Even a little rain thrown in. IMG_2249

Walked down to main road and this stunning oleander is now in flower at the club front gates.

Cleared up and we were able to eat outside. There is a lot of gossip around the club as to the 2 vacant shops down the road  (handy pizza place and general food store). The latest rumour is an undertaker which has upset some of our more elderly residents.

Friday 1st June.  Beautiful pre-dawn pic at 6 am IMG_2250

Off early for walk at Port Grimaud including a pedestrian crossing which called for a little more caution than my previous comments. We were stranded in the middle of the main road while 2 cars whizzed past us.

Lovely down on the beach there, hot and sunny at 9 am, and then through the village. Next it’s off to Cogolin to buy a new fan for the guest room. Unfortunately, we bought the very last one in the size we needed, and it was the demonstrator on a high ceiling in the showroom. Quite a performance from the 2 female assistants to remove it. Being fitted tomorrow by John who very kindly volunteered his services.

Decided to have another go at the larger diseased fir tree armed with an impressive array of tools, courtesy of Stuart next door. Think the tree saw the line up and capitulated in about 15 minutes. Here it is – a real fisherman’s catch:

Two pics to emphasize great sense of achievement!!

Spurred on by my success I decided to start improving the base of one of our large fir trees, the one right outside the balcony. All cleaned up and perimeter stones added.

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Saturday 2nd June.  After breakfast John O arrived to fit new fan. All up and working after 45 mins. Bit of help from Jean:

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After tea and Xmas cake (John please note – supplies getting a bit low!) it’s back to spring cleaning for Jean and gardening for me. Completed the White stone circle round the tree At least it matches the white surfinias.  IMG_2267

Off then to the garden centre to buy the new trees, and 3 large photinias purchased. Planting tomorrow!!

Decided to start the dreaded automatic watering system ….mmmm…..now realize why I keep putting it off. After and hour or so the patio is littered various tubes of differing diameters and lengths  without making any noticeable progress. Went swimming with Jean instead – out of sight, out of mind…great swim.

Off to Oasis at Embarquement for a pleasant meal on the beach.

Sunday 3rd June. Off to Croix Valmer for a walk along the old railway line. Cloudy weather ideal for this. Stopped briefly for water and then back home for breakfast.

And now for the trees, although the ground has to be  fertilised and dug over first. An old gardener at the garden centre in Cornwall told me to put a soaked newspaper in the bottom of the planting hole to maintain initial moisture. Duly followed his advice – one with the local Var Matin and the other 2 with the Sunday Times financial Section. Good contest in store! Re-positioned neighbour’s plants in the hope she won’t complain on arrival, as she is very sensitive about her privacy, and my photinias are a bit smaller than the 30 year old pines I removed.

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Had a rest after all this work and long walk, but fell asleep and woke to rain. We frantically put everything in a dry place and so this pic is temporary artists impression before we get the camera out tomorrow. Thunderstorms forecast for this evening so eating dinner indoors (for the first time this visit) and hope the electricity stays on in the lightning.

Monday 4th June. Very heavy rain all night and didn’t stop until 11 am. Not much lightning or thunder though. Good for the new trees but flattened most of the bedding plants. Recovery under way but no sun yet.

Every year there is an army of gypsies comes down here from all parts of France and Europe, easily recognised on the road by the White Van often towing an up-to-date state of the art caravan, complete with satellite aerial. By French law they are allowed to commandeer any public car parks or spaces during bad flooding. Our local  Casino supermarket is now full of them – always a nightmare for us, the police and especially the supermarket trade, as no customers can get parked. There is always trouble and traffic jams when they move off in large groups.

Dried up a bit by evening so had great walk at Cavalaire. Getting there wasn’t easy as there was a huge traffic jam, but worth it in the end. On visiting information centre we saw this sign outside the toilets, rather an odd way of putting it, but I think we know what they mean. Passage in this case in French means ‘passing through’, although ‘visit’ might be a better translation!IMG_2276

Cleared up enough to eat outside and have our second game of scrabble, now 1-1 in this year’s championship.

Tuesday 5th June. Beautiful sunshine and off to Cogolin Marine  for a walk.   Today is the day of the arrival of Jean’s sister Julie,  and I do hope she notices the new toilet and overhead fan in her room, to say nothing of all the extra space created by spring cleaning removal of all cobwebs and dust.

Journey to Nice, on what is a rather bendy and busy auto-route, was uneventful until I took a wrong turn and ended up in heavy traffic going in the opposite direction to the airport. Drove on hoping for a roundabout or a u-turn opportunity, only to be sent on a diversion owing to a road closure, as a new tramway system is being constucted. Eventually managed a (legal?) U-turn and to our relief eventually saw a sign to the airport. Searched for ages for a parking space but still in plenty of time for the flight. Like everywhere else we seem to visit around here, the airport is under reconstruction/modernisation.

    Tramway to Airport                                                   Artists impression of completion – no date!

Once out of Nice we had a relatively trouble free journey back – in time for a quick swim to relieve the tension!

It was then an  evening of celebration – nice to have Julie with us. Jean’s cooking and some very nice Rose, and a drop of excellent Red – present from Zoe, our last guest – completed the day’s proceedings.

Wednesday 6th June. Just  managed a walk at Port Cogolin before the rain. It is without doubt the worst weather we have ever had here, but it managed to clear up late afternoon and we went to Grimaud, a small hill town nearby, for a little sight-seeing. It is noted for an old fortress and  narrow streets with beautiful flowers everywhere, and great views.

Back to the ranch for a great swim in the pool and BBQ on our terrace.

Thursday 7th June. IMG_2292.PNG

Weather forecast poor so off early to Cavalaire for a walk that could provide shelter – just finished as rain came. Road works everywhere at the moment so took diversion to avoid them – only to find they had set up a further temporary lights on the home straight. Good day for reading and catching up on blog!

After all our indoor activities we were glad to get a swim about 5 pm before getting ready for a night out in Ste Maxime. It’s HD Euro Festival and 15,000 of them are now in or near St Tropez.

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On getting to Ste Maxime we find the pedestrian areas have mostly been fenced off to park the Harleys, but we managed to snake our way through them to the restaurant.

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Yes we’re there again this time to hear Jazz a Bichon from Clermont Ferrand.

  • Philippe ANHORN : Piano
  • Marc BRESDIN : Clarinette, saxes.
  • Guy CHAMPEME : Clarinette, saxes, vocal
  • Jean Pierre DUBOIS : Banjo
  • Eric PERRION : Tuba
  • Shona TAYLOR : Cornet

Excellent playing for 2 hours and a half and an excellent meal.

Created in 2009, the Jazz à Bichon is a classic jazz sextet that has adapted for a small band the arrangements of the great dance orchestras of the late 20s and early 30s.

Jazz A Bichon plays mainly in major classical jazz festivals in France or abroad (Marciac, Breda, Ascona etc.)

When we left the area was flooded with Harleys with a myriad of variations and additions.

Hopefully the rain will have gone tomorrow.

Friday 8th June. Off to Le Lavendou on the 10.50 bus. Dry but cloudy…..fingers crossed. As it happens it became fine, and we arrived there on time and in beautiful sunshine, and headed off down the coastal path to Bormes Port where we stopped for a cup of tea, via the infamous statue :

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After a long walk we stopped for a cuppa and continued around the port and its splendid beach before returning along the coastal path to have some lunch – for me preceded by a superbly served cup of teaIMG_2315, which looked rather better than it tasted. Our food, however, was superb, and gave further strength to do some more walking before heading back to the bus stop for the journey home. Incredible views once more from the bus as we went over the top of the headland, and arrived back at Chenes (the bus stop is only 100 meters from the gate).

A game of table tennis was mooted, together with a swim in the pool, but common sense prevailed in the form of a doze and a dinner on the balcony with a lovely bottle of Rose. All in all a splendid day.

Saturday 9th June. Sunshine at last and long may it continue. Early walk at Cogolin Marina and then off to the Casino to shop for tonight’s dinner party.

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The whole area is now buzzing with bikes – 15,000 participants and probably thousands of other bikers here to watch. Quite incredible ! Tonight is the parade when they all snake across the Golfe region.

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Today’s route – we’re just to the left of Gassin.
Last year’s parade and examples of the many modifications (from Var Matin)

Most of the afternoon spent preparing for the Dinner Party. At about 5 the parade passed close by – like a 15 minute thunderclap.

Managed quick swim before our 6.30 pm start. Excellent evening. Not  only was the weather nice for dining outside, all were in fine form, particularly Trevor, who had just arrived 2 days ago, and the food was superb even though I say it myself. Rose was there again and Cote de Rhone. Swordfish on the BBQ is fast becoming our favourite dish here. Finished at 11.15 and cleared up (mostly).

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Sunday 10th June. A late start, but still managed an great walk at Gigaro along the sea and through a vineyard.

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Lazy afternoon as you can see above. Many more birds on our feeders today, particularly Crested Tits.

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Weather warming up – 27 today, but still partly cloudy. After our swim in the pool we got pizzas from the new wood fired truck near La Croix Valmer, and chatted until dark.

Monday 11th June. Rain was not a good start to the week but it cleared up by 11 and off we went to St Tropez. Traffic must less than normal and got parked easily in the port. Walked through the main town and off along the coast. On return we bought pain aux raisins from our backstreet boulangerie and ate them  on the pier. Quite crowded around the port with lots of yachts getting ready for racing.

Back to car and off home via the pay station for parking charge and …..disaster. In getting close to the ticket machine I got too close to the high kerb and scratched the trim on the car. Not a good end to a great trip!

After lunch our friend Trevor reminded me I was to help him with his dog Arnaud’s ear drops, and I duly consulted U Tube for a few hints on doing this. When I turned up Trevor and Arnaud were waiting together with surgical gloves and a warning from Trevor that he hated having it done. He was to hold the dog while I inserted the tube into the ear canal and squeezed in the antibiotic. With great difficulty found the ear canal, but not before Trevor had been bitten on the finger. Certainly the liquid went into the canal and strangely enough as I massaged under the ear as in the Vet Society video, Arnoud suddenly was peaceful maybe with relief. Meanwhile Trevor was searching for some bandages to stop the bleeding.

Went for swim but not before calling to see how the patients were faring – bleeding stopped and dog fine. Fortunately for all concerned, it was a single application antibiotic.

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On with the glad rags (here that means a clean T shirt and best flip-flops!) and off to Azure Plage, a restaurant on the beach, courtesy of Julie for her last night. Beautiful seafood especially the scallops and gambas with a nice glass or two of Rose.

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                                                                                  and back to the patio for a nightcap.

Tuesday 12th June. Julie’s last day so  off to Port Grimaud for a long walk. Nice weather but loads of construction going on with new apartments and the on the beach lots of deconstruction after the visit of the Harley Davidson thousands. Back to the ranch for Julie to pack and we headed off to the airport at Nice. At least we managed to take the right route this time and dropped her at the ‘kiss and fly’. Headed back for a late lunch only to run into a massive thunderstorm which completely obliterated the road for a while – quite frightening.

Back at the ranch it was dry as a bone, as these thunderstorms do seem to be worse in the mountains. Great swim in the pool before dinner on the balcony and an early night.

Wednesday 13th June. Sunny and warm so early walk at St Maxime along prom, although massive building  work in progress – hopefully to be finished in time for the start of the main season. Had fun looking at various signs along the way :

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Called in at Cafe de France for a cup of tea and to reserve a table for Fete de la Musique on 21st June. For those not familiar with this great idea, every town, village, or hamlet in France has free musical events, amateur or professional, in the streets, squares, halls or even on the beach. A true celebration of music.

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On the way back saw this advert for Jean’s own personal fete. The truth is this is a national fete to celebrate the life of John the Baptiste. There are of course over 150 towns and villages in France and many others around the world, called St Jean often hyphenated with a local name or place.

Great swim and quiet night eating on balcony and early to bed after the New world symphony on Radio Classique.

Thursday 14th June.  Housework and gardening while the weather is not too hot. We went to Croix Valmer for a cross country walk to the coast at Debarquement Beach.

                           Top L shows task ahead. Top R newly planted vines. 

Had a rather expensive cup of tea in an exclusive beach restaurant. We’re keeping a league table for the cup of tea charges and this one went straight to the top at 5 euros.

Nice teapot though!

Back to the ranch, having extracted the car from the car park by means of a 15 point turn! Spaces designed for 2CV’s I think.

Breakfast was at lunchtime and did some serious watering as my new trees were drooping a bit. We went to the AGM of the club which was 2 and a half hours of chaos in  a very hot clubhouse. Less said the better!

Much more enjoyable was the after AGM pizza party at President Brian and Alison’s (or should it be Alisons’ as there are 2 of them?) house. Lots of laughter with the wine, and a late night in bed.

Friday 15th June.    Leisurely start to the day for us, before setting off to Carrefour for the weekly shop. Hoped to take in in garden centre and vineyard outlet but both closed for lunch – open at 3. The French take mealtimes seriously – one of its better characteristics. Exercise late in day with swimming and walking.

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Lots of fun with the different road signs here (they’re supposed to be the same all over Europe). We’ve already seen the cyclist ones:

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The one on the left means NO cyclists!

Here’s a few more for our mutual education

Answer please – postcard or by email.

Saturday 26th June. Early walk at Port Cogolin followed by visits to the 2 outlets closed yesterday. Had yet another go at mending the toilet seat – and yet another failure, and time for reinforcements in the form of John O to show me how it’s done – he agreed willingly, but just in case of hesitation I offered him a slice of the rapidly diminishing Xmas cake.

Stuart and Lesley have recently moved in and completely renovated the unit just behind us, and held a lunch party to thank the neighbours for tolerating the noise and inconvenience of the building work. A nice mixture of French, Belgian and English to eat a lovely lunch, drink the odd glass of wine and listen to their wonderful Bose digital music from a unit smaller than a paperback book, controlled from their mobile phone. Great fun and we eventually said our goodbyes at 6.15!

Willy and Annie, Arlette and Jose, and the group gathered under canvas from the burning sunshine.

To complete the day we had a swim, a walk, and a BBQ on the patio. Talk about burning the candle!

Sunday 17th June.  The only good thing about the bad weather of our first 3 weeks was that the plants did not need watering. Now it’s at least once per day under the very powerful sun. After just doing that, we headed off to Gigaro for a walk and a lie on the beach before it became too hot, but not before Jean had the first swim in the sea. Lots of jobs to do at home and preparing food for tomorrows dinner party. John O arrived with his box of tools to fix the toilet, and agreed with me about the bad design of the fittings. Disappointingly he was unable to do it (although I felt less of an idiot DIY man) and he had to silicone the seat and lid in position – a very well deserved piece of Xmas cake!!.

Every day, courtesy of our 6 feeders, we have lot of birds to observe in the garden. Blue tits, great tits, green finches, chaffinches, crested tits (unbelievably several each day), jays, magpies, collared doves, and sparrows. Today surpassed all previous as not only did we have a tree creeper and a black kite circling around the forest but I saw my first golden oriole. goriole

It is well known locally that they are in the forest about half a mile away, but very difficult to see and I have spent hours looking over the years. Then sitting on our balcony, fortunately with binocs in hand, I saw one at the top of some large pine trees, in the late afternoon sun, and no doubt about the ID – yellow and black with bright red bill, a male.

It’s father’s day back home so had long conversation with Lucy about their recent activities and then a hilarious Jib jab movie from Wendy. All in all a good day and ended with a swim in the pool.

Monday 18th June. Went off early to walk at Port Cogolin and Casino for dinner party shop and on return found that Lesley next door was in the hospital (also next door as it happens). She had fallen down their steps after taking the dog out the previous evening and had broken her wrist, ankle and 2 ribs. On top of that we heard that Christine Morris, one of our best friends here and a very popular member of the club for many years is in a hospice with a poor prognosis cancer.

Spent the rest of the day getting ready for the dinner party for Brian and Alison and our old neighbours Richard and Annette who were here on a visit. Richard had missed the last event on Saturday, but was on parade with a neck brace having visited the hospital as well. Splendid evening, but, after clearing up, we were late in bed.

Tuesday 19th June. Late start and leisurely morning. Gardening and housework were the order of the day. Plants all locally grown – in Sticker, Cornwall.

Swim in pool at 2 pm and late lunch. Evening walk at Cavalaire.

Wednesday 20th June. More and larger plants = more watering in this hot spell. After a walk we settled down to a normal day of cleaning, gardening, and getting food ready for our street party tonight. IMG_2395.JPG

The tables were set out in the afternoon – in the middle of the street. No traffic as we are a cul de sac and we were all at the party.

 

 

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6 pm gathered together for a short flute recital from the balcony of our old unit.

Food and wine then flowed until around 11 with French, English an Franglais in equal measure.

 

 

Another late night.

Thursday 21st June. Up a bit late, and very hot, but plenty to do. Cleared away the tables from last night and took the bottles to the poubelle.

Off to Credit Agricole bank with a few problems which were easily solved by an excellent lady on the desk. We had lost our card (it actually got sent to our old address and disappeared), a cheque had got lost in the post, and we needed to draw out some money. With 10 minutes we would get our new card by the end of the month, cheque cancelled so we could send another, and money in pocket. It does help to speak and understand some french, but we have been in there a few times and  always found it more difficult, so ‘good on yer’ to the young lady.

At the moment anything that goes wrong with any of the public services is blamed on the strikes, even if that service is not actually striking at the time as with our ‘lost in the post’ cheque. Anything vaguely resembling a problem with the English is of course blamed on Brexit! Since both these dilemmas would appear insoluble at the moment………….. end of conversation!!

Great swim in the pool to cool off, although even the pool is quite warm in the strong sun.

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Today is actually Fete de la Musique which is a national event all over the country and each town or village will have live music, professional or amateur, old and young, often outside or in restaurants. Together with our friend Trevor we went to Ste Maxime and visited Cafe de France to listen to a Gypsy Band playing just outside the restaurant.

We could certainly hear the music, despite a rather noisy table next to us ! Another late night but definitely worth it!

Friday 22nd June. Walk at Port Grimaud in the sunshine by the boats on a beautiful morning.

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Then it’s off to Cogolin to view new toilet seats as we have given up on the other one. Costerama had the largest selection (in terms of the number of models!) and I couldn’t resist a photo, despite one or two old fashioned looks from the other customers.

 

Swim on return to cool off and John kindly fitted the new seat, politely refusing the offer of Xmas cake. Decided to take the bull by the horns and start on the automatic watering system refit/repairs. Having spent the last month thinking about it I did have a plan, and no shortage of parts and miles of spare tubing.

The basic kit

Keeping  the other half for tomorrow! Went for a swim to cool off and cool down!

Saturday 23rd June. Decided to have an early beach-trip to Cogolin Plage. Had a walk round the port first and then set up on the beach. Unluckily we chose the wrong day as an onshore wind had got up and the sea was rather rough. Nevertheless we stayed for an hour or so and had a dip in the sea and a few mouthfuls of salt water thrown in.

To complete our bad luck the new toilet seat came loose and is now propping up the bathroom wall until John is available to fix it (I did have a go but the results were somewhat disappointing). You’re probably wondering why there isn’t much urgency in repairing it – well, you’ll be ‘relieved’ to hear that we have another one!

Back to the watering system and connected up the other half. Connected the controller to the tap to test for leaks, only to find it wasn’t working, despite a new battery. Hmmm…try again tomorrow.

Spent an excellent evening at the Oxfords dinner party with great company of Les and Eileen, John and Gill, eating superb food (including our favourite swordfish) and accompanied by (probably too much) lovely wine.

Sunday 24th June. Late start, but walked to Croix Valmer and back, although we cheated a bit by parking halfway – still 3 miles or more. After breakfast it was back to the watering system and a consultation with the manual to hopefully solve the problem. Well it is very comprehensive and comes in no less than 20 different languages, not one of which is English. Managed a translation and couldn’t find anything that I was doing wrong. Gave it one more try on the tap and BINGO – it worked! No idea why! Patched up the various leaks and had some lunch in the knowledge that  I was close to a result with still a week to go. O yes, I nearly forgot, when I put the manual back in the folder I found an English version on a separate sheet. Oh well.

I now have a piano, courtesy of a member who has donated it to the club and was looking for someone to keep it safe. To say I leapt at the chance is definitely an understatement. Hope the neighbours concur!

Went down to the pool for a swim as the weather was looking rather threatening and a clap of thunder resulted in a rather hasty exit. Rain soon followed and we ate inside for the first time for a while.

Monday 25th June.  Up early and off to St Aygulf (along the coast about 10 miles) for a walk along the coastal footpath in beautiful sunshine and calm sea.

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Further work on the watering system to try and stem the various leaks, not entirely successfully. Decided to replace part of the main pipe – quite a lot of work but I can then glue the joints on that section. More tomorrow!!After our usual swim in the pool we donned our best party clothes for a dinner party at Trevor’s and were astonished to find a total of 9 around the table. Tall order one might think but Trevor aided by his house guests did a fantastic job – we knew he was a good cook and he’s well organised as well. Excellent evening and another late night.

Tuesday 26th June. Not an early start

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You may wonder what this is – well it’s the Oxford’s teapot with its new hand knitted cover courtesy of our friend Heather Vaughan.

 

Today is our last shopping trip before we leave in a weeks time.

 

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Talking of leaving, we are more than looking forward to seeing puppy Bettie again, now that she is older, pictured here with her Mum Lola wearing the red collar.

 

 

 

 

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The other day I forgot to record a very important piece of sporting news – no nothing to do with football, but everything to do with whitewashing the Australians at cricket. I followed the last one and a half hours of the match on teletext, including the last half an hour on my mobile walking round the swimming pool – nail biting stuff!!

Finished with a walk along Pardigan Beach and dinner out on the veranda. Early night for a change.

Wednesday 27th June. Early start to finish the watering system. Well it works but still needs some fine tuning. We set off early to Port Grimaud for a great walk before it got too hot. Quite a few on the beach also thought the same thing.

Pool swim – water 27 degrees.

Tonight is our final dinner party of this trip so we’re working away cleaning up and preparing food and drink.

Excellent evening and late in bed having cleared up and washed all dishes.

Thursday 28th June. Slow start, a sort of pottering, reading sort of day. Good swim in pool. Did not walk as far as usual, but had a great evening walk on Pardigon Beach. Dinner of leftovers on balcony.

Friday 29th June. After a successful try out of the newly repaired automatic watering system, we went for an early walk at Gigaro and then spent the morning on beach. Treated ourselves to a Pain aux Raisins from the shop there, last year’s joint winners of the competition, and pleased to report that the standard is still high. Great swim in the sea.

Had BBQ at 3.30 – bacon, black pudding (courtesy of Trevor) eggs, tomato – as we’re out tonight at the first concert of the Festival des Anches.

f des anches Packed outdoor theatre holding 800 started this evening with the New Jersey Wind Orchestra. As is usual here in France the 9 pm start turned out to be 9.15 for speeches and 9.30 for the music. Worth every minute of waiting to  hear some outstanding playing from one of the best symphonic wind bands in USA. Very  difficult music from leading composers including  anches2

Bernstein’s Candide Overture and West Side Story, Offenbach, and others including of course Sousa; his Washington Post featured six piccolos who came to  the front of the band to play that famous obbligato! The whole clarinet section did the same for another piece. The trombone solo played from memory ‘Thoughts of Love’ was the outstanding piece for me.

Finished after 3 encores at 11.45 – home by midnight.

Sunday June 30th. Off to Croix Valmer for more music. Walked along the old railway line to arrive in time for the Parade given by the Police Band of Zurich.

This was followed by a concert in a small marquee and we managed to find a seat in the cafe opposite the band.  There was a variety of entertainment including a superb Alpine Horn player.

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Walked back at 12, hot but shade from the trees. Tea under air conditioner.

The concert this evening starts at 9 again so we had time for a rest and a swim in the pool.

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Concert very good and varied with band, solo alpine horn, and drumming, but not quite the some standard as last night. The Alpine Horn player, a girl in her twenties, was the hit of the evening getting several standing ovations. 11.20 was an early finish.

 

 

Sunday 1st July.  Spent the morning at Gigaro beach preceded by a walk along the front. Had our favourite Pain aux raisins and they were even better than last time, if that’s possible! Best swim in sea so far.

        View from the road                                       A shady individual

Tested watering system – thank goodness it’s working!

Off for our last concert and this time an orchestra – such a professional performance and the average age was…..16. Great programme again, and to a packed outdoor arena of 850 – and evening to remember from the Harrison College Symphony Orchestra from Lakeland in Florida

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Monday 2nd July. Last day so off to Port Cogolin for our final walk, fill up with diesel, and last minute shopping at the Casino supermarket. Now to tidy up the house and pack the car. Went to bank to collect our new card only to find they are closed on Mondays. Saw an interesting sign on our walk, just to show Theresa that it could even be worse!

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Clearing up is no fun especially as it’s really hot today, but all accomplished and Jean made sure that all was perfect for the visitors in 4 weeks time.

Went down to Port Cogolin for a meal at La Corse and the added extra of a large screen TV with Japan leading Belgium 2-0. Well the excitement that followed was incredible – and for those of you who live on a different  planet, Belgium came back and won 3-2. Nice meal as well – learned a new expression – poisson vierge – virgin fish, ie no sauce! In our case it was Sea Bass. Yummy!

Tuesday 3rd July. Up early and patio cleared, cave locked, car packed up, and on the road by 9.15 and off to the bank to pick up new card only to find the card has been sent to St Tropez branch by mistake. Grrrr…Decided to leave it there until end of August, our next trip.

A8 – A9 – A71 to near Clermont Ferrand and dry and not too much traffic. Stopped at Messiac for tea. The destination was St Beauzire, a place I had spotted on the map, just off the motorway. Booked with Booking.com – 1.6 miles from centre.    Found it and toured around for a while and couldn’t spot any hotels. On stopping at the chemist it was confirmed there were no hotels. We were directed to another town to look for the St Baudiere Hotel without success, so we phoned them for directions. Well….it seems there are 2 St. Beauzires the other one, where our booking was, situated 40 miles south – near where we had stopped for our tea.

The Hotel was duly found, 1.6 miles from the centre and although it was getting late by then, it was a little paradise and a great restaurant as well.

Hotel at last

unusual garden stones

Lions meet here

pots in garden

 

 

After all that driving…..

Wednesday 4th July. Straightforward drive this time, albeit plus the 40 extra miles we backtracked yesterday, to a place called Beedee where we often stop for breakfast on the way down. Rather hot (no air con) but a fan kept us cool.

Thursday 5th July. 2 hour drive to the boat and back to Cornwall about 9.30, queued for the passport control and arrived home by 11.30.

Here endeth this blog – and a few pics of what we came back to:

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