Wednesday, 30 April 2014

French Style!

Ready for more travelogue.... here we go.
Counting down the days to Nantes but we still had a four night stay booked in a town called Bauge' , our base to explore the Loire Valley. It took us a while to find the accommodation we had booked as it was hidden behind a huge stone wall and big doors in the centre of town but it was a secret treasure. A lovely 16th centre house owned by antique dealers in a secret walled garden with it's own chapel. The owners had renovated the former stables and coach house for accommodation and it was truly lovely!
Here is a sneak peek......


Bauge' is a small town but we were delighted with it. On our second day there we woke up to find the biggest markets in the main street, just outside our door and we hadn't heard a thing all night!

We spent our days visiting some of the beautiful chateaus in the region, wandering the roads through endless fields of canola in flower and having lots of coffee stops in the towns and villages, some even built into the caves all through the valley!

My favourite place was the Chateau Villandry. The rooms were authentically furnished, which was great but the gardens were mind blowing. The parterre gardens were in full bloom and were spectacular!

The icing on the cake was finding a little quilt show fluke!

It would have been so easy to stay longer but Nantes and the quilt show are our next stop........can't linger.

Happy stitching!

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Heading to Nantes......the long way!

After a week in one spot we were ready to go again. Our next long stop would be Nantes, where I am going to the quilt show. We were going to take the winding road to get there, through the Midi Pyrenees, Dordogne and Loire Valley.
France certainly showed us some spectacular scenery, rugged gorges, rustic stone villages and rolling hillsides of green and gold.
We travelled to cross the Millau Bridge......... another must see engineering feat for Top Gear.

Then wound our way across the Millau valley to the Gorges Du Tarn where we drove a narrow road clinging to the sides of precipitous drops. Have to say, I wasn't that comfortable when we met a car or, even worse, bus or truck coming in the opposite direction. The scenery was spectacular.......pristine river below, hundreds of vultures wheeling above, fantastic rock formations and villages built, clinging to the mountainsides in the most precarious spots!

We stayed of these little quiet and peaceful.

The next morning, leaving town, there was a bit if a traffic jam, caused by this....

We spent the next day exploring Sarlat, the town for geese and foie gras, and I did manage to find the patchwork shop!

We left Sarlat to overnight in the incredibly beautiful, but smaller town of Domme. Our hotel room had a panoramic view over the Dordogne Valley.......breathtaking.

Evening drinks were here on this terrace, watching hot air balloons float over the valley as the sun set...... a memory was made!

Next stop was the coast at La Rochelle, a medieval fort town with a harbour guarded by two towers and home to the only medieval lighthouse on the French Atlantic coast.
Here we feasted in seafood and enjoyed the holiday feel of the town!

We loved the bric-a-brac markets here. I found a pretty little silver pear pomander for
5 euro, my kind of souvenir.

Next the Loire Valley and Nantes. Stay tuned!
Happy stitching!

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I am a bit behind in keeping you up to date with my adventures but the truth is that I am just plain tired! By the time Top Gear and I finish our days we are falling into bed and sleeping like logs, then up and go again the next day. Normally I am an excellent traveller, walking and sightseeing, but not this time! I have little energy to post anything, let alone string some coherent thought together.
So a quick catch up.........
We had a lovely week in our little house in St Thibery, in the Languedoc region. It wasn't quite as lazy as planned as we found there was too much to see around the area. It was nice though to make our own breakfast and come home each night to an easy dinner!

- The house was "rustic" but had all the mod cons. Three floors with an uneven stone spiral staircase that ended in a rooftop terrace...... perfect for afternoon drinks.

We had days exploring, wining and dining on the Mediterranean coast. Some places were busy and touristy but others were quiet little ports.

Nothing beats our beaches at home!
Other days were spent exploring the vineyards and villages in every direction. My favourite was St Guillame L'Desert, a very peaceful hillside village.

Another day was spent visiting the Canal Du Midi, another must see on Top Gear's list of great engineering achievements. This canal was built to provide a link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and is still used today by small boats to cross France.

The medieval city of Carcassonne was also a day outing. We explored the old city from top to bottom, not my favourite place as I found it all a bit touristy but still fun. I much preferred the "real" town of Carcassonne.

The day provided a treasure for me. We found an old antique shop that had a stack of old bed linen for sale. She had quilts, sheets and pillow cases. Underneath it all I found an old "Pique Du Marseilles" bedspread, edged in hand made lace. The lady said she had bought it all from a chateau near Tours and believes the linen had come from a wedding trousseau circa mid-late 1800's! It is in perfect condition and is now coming hone with me....... not sure how I am going to carry it! I wanted to buy the sheets and pillow cases too, all edged in the same lace, but sanity prevailed!!!!!!

So, you can see it was a big week, meant to be a quiet week, but we did leave our little house feeling ready for the next leg.......heading north, through the Dordogne and Loire valley, to Nantes! Quilt show is now in sight!!!!
Happy stitching!

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Yes, I love Provence!

Last time I wrote we were just beginning to move into the Provence region of France. I have to give Top Gear his due credit here...... He is proving to be a tour guide extraordinaire. He spends a lot of his spare time seeking out "off the tourist radar" places and while sometimes I worry we are going to end up sleeping in the car, or broken down on a one way dirt road in a vineyard, so far he has done very well.
Leaving Annecy, we headed to Sisteron. Never heard of it? Nor had I ! Apparently we were roughly following the route Napoleon Bonaparte took on his way to his final battle in Waterloo.....and we all know how that ended!
Sisteron is also touted as the unofficial gateway to Provence......yep, that's a gateway alright! Just what you expect to see round the next bend!

He had booked us into the best hotel in town nestled just outside the walls of this citadel in the centre of the town....... I suspect it was the only hotel in town but it turned out to be a delight. It was old school in every way but tres' elegant, and run by the most delightful family and their staff.
We spent a morning exploring the fortress. Napoleon passed through here in 1815 but it's foundations go back to the 9th century! It was amazing and the views from the top were breathtaking.

We still had plenty of day left so we headed out in the car explore. The receptionist at the hotel had told us about some beautiful hill top villages so we headed that way.
This part of Provence was such a surprise. I knew it was going to be beautiful but I was not prepared for the hills and valleys. At one point we were switch backing up the side of a mountain for ages to come out at the top on a huge plateau covered in endless acres of lavender feilds. Unfortunately we were little too early for the full blown blossoms but it was easy to see the spectacle it would become.

Our target for lunch was a little village called Moustiers St Marie, a village clinging to a mountainside, built around a waterfall........simply stunning!

A little sneaky shopping may have been done....... Busted!

The rain cleared so we decided to take the long way home via the Gorges of Verdon. A steep ravine, with a goat track road clinging to the edges, but overlooking a gushing river of a blue that seemed unnatural!

We finished the day, back at our lovely hotel with dinner and a lovely wine!
Are you sick of my travelogue yet? But wait there is more.........
The next day we wound our way across Provence......following a drive that took us through some of the Beaux d' Villages (beautiful villages) of Provence. Some we stopped at, some we didn't, all were lovely!
We were heading for the Pont Du Gard. Top Gear is endlessly fascinated with any feats of engineering and this one had been on his bucket list. A huge triple bridge, built by the Romans to carry water into the city of Nimes, circa 19 BC. Even I was impressed!

Now we had finally reached our pit stop destination.......a house, rented for a week, on the border of the Provence and Languedoc region. Time to sleep in, read, wash clothes, sew and cook our own food...... so ready for it! I can smell the Med sea air........nearly!
More to come soon.
Happy stitching!
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