13 October 2014


A beautiful spot.
Went to Coaraze. No need to go to Italy to see an Italian style village. It's closer but takes about the same amount of time to get up to though.

The highest part of town has a great area to play.

Before in the main square, plenty of kids playing.

After, but mind you it was Sunday.

One and a half days in Nice, Cagnes really.

Racing around in Sanremo.
We mistook the day of the flight, so had a day less than we thought. One day we went to Italy, which is 45 minutes drive, and onto Sanremo. I'd never managed to see the old town, so it was nice to get up to it at last. Super interesting.

Then some time walking along the stony beach around here, and off on the plane again back home for John.

Village of fishermen, Cros de Cagnes

Beautiful village, shame about the 80s onwards.

Lucky last day - Arles

A sunny day in the arena at Arles
Arles is a nice little town, very important back during Roman times. There's a ruined little theatre, churches, town houses and an arena like the Colliseum. We went for a look, and luckily enough were there just when the gladiator show was on. Ten or twelve gladiators fought in pairs for our entertainment. The main man is a historian who said that gladiators cost a lot to train and equip. So they were usually not killed, and did not kill.

The modern gladiators fought hard for real.

If they killed someone, then they would be punished by, you guessed it, death. The arena at Nimes says the opposite, that they all went sometime unnaturally. But the well trained story makes sense.

Meeting the gladiators afterward.

Explaining how to score a point without injuring anyone.

Trying out the kit. That helmet is heavy!

The main man chose to be a Retiare, the most successful.

They've renovated a fair bit. It's in good condition.

25 September 2014

Foix, Carcasonne, Avignon

At the bottom of the castle overlooking Foix.
Cite medieval, Carcassonne
A quick stop at Foix to look at the castle up on the hill. You can see up the valley and right around in the tower.

Then in for the traffic jam at Carcasonne. It's another small town with loads of traffic. Dinner is salad, pizza, more duck.

In the morning got a jog in, down to the medieval town. We all wander around. John goes to the museum and ramparts.
Avignon Palais des Papes

In the afternoon, rushing along, we get to Pont du Gard, then a night next to the  freeway outside Avignon in a micro hotel, pretty bad.

Today we went to the Avignon town centre, so John could visit the Palais des Papes. This used to be the seat of the popes for some time. They lived an unimaginably lavish lifestyle, frescoes on the ceilings, basements full of gold, towers the size of a huge living room, just to smoke meats.

Morning skate session in the new town ghetto

Bordeaux, Pau, Lourdes, no immediate miracles

Bordeaux next to the river
Walked around Bordeaux all day, very nice. Saw old 3 mast boat on the river in top

The best way to get around

Sunday was a lazy day, kids in the playground, a load of washing done before lunch
at Blanquefort, a tiny place, and then visit a winery, St Agace's. Eleanor of Aquitaine
Mother duck said quack quack, only 5 little ducks came back
married the king of France. Sometimes the place was part of England, later France.

Our camping is about 7km out of Bordeaux, and 10 more km is fully into the wineries.
It's not far to get into agricultural land. Compare with Sydney's sprawl.

Hanging around with Aussie Rob at the camp

Got going eventually Monday. Got to Pau, the birthplace of Henri IV (I need to read
more). Nice old town, chateau and sushi. John was happy with this town even.

Going native at the St Agace winery

Henri IV's birthplace at Pau
Then we went to Lourdes. We saw a procession of wheelchairs and people, and thousands of pilgrims seeking a cure. We touched the cave where Bernadette's visions happened. The walls of the cave have been worn glass smooth by people's hands, morning and afternoon, with two hours off for lunch. The church walls are covered with thank you tiles, each with a one line story.

Next day, John's off early in the morning to get dunked in holy water. He says the stomach pains have gone. We got about 20 bottles and some rosaries from the holy supermarket, fill them up, then it's on the road for the next stop at Foix.

A procession at Lourdes


23 September 2014

Mont St Michel, Dinan, Nantes, Rochefort, pause for breath

In the queue to get into Mont St Michel. Come back in winter.
Tried to get to Mont St Michel in the morning. Got there at about 11am. Big mistake. Needed to go to the toilet. Queued up for a while, then couldn't hold on for much more time, so had to get out of the queue, and get back to the visitor centre via the bus shuttle. Everyone else gave up, and we kept driving on.

Beautiful Dinan
Visited Dinan after getting lost a bit. A super well preserved medieval town.

Stayed the night in Nantes, a nice old town, lots of stone buildings, nice cathedral. Sadly the trip is being sped up to get home on time.

Barflies in Dinan
Stopped at Rochefort. One of the teachers at school is from here. Spoke to the guy at the bar. John told him all about Australia. Saw an old boat in the dry dock. The river seems silted up here.

Got to Bordeaux in the afternoon. The campground is pretty good, some grass, a pool, a jumping castle, and not too many cars so the boys can skate board a bit.

Around Bayeux

Today we went to Bayeux to see the tapestry telling the story of William the Conqueror. Nice place. Then onto Longues sur Mer to see some of the big German gun emplacements and casemates. After that, Arromanches and the Mulberry harbour. This floating dock was personally overseen and pushed through by Winston Churchill. The metal structures, like piers, are still there, plus one section of deck, that would have linked up the metal pier things in the old days.

Arromanches Mulberry harbour
Stopped at Caen castle on the way home, built in 1060 odd, and always used since then. The walls survived. There's not many buildings inside.

Mulberry harbour piece of deck

The birthday boy and the skateboard

The castle at Caen


Rouen Cathedral
At Rouen in the cathedral, we saw the crypt of Richard the Lionheart. Will have to read some more history books to find out why he's laying around here.

It's Ollie's birthday. There's no better excuse to buy a super awesome skateboard. This one rolls so nicely and should last for quite some time. It's taken quite a few hits at this time.

Got to Caen (pronounced like con/quand), stayed in same hotel as John. It's like a refugee centre of one room appartments that look like shipping containers piled up. Some guy is working on his Merc and speaking some language I never heard before.

Getting it done..

Trauma deck, before putting on the Death is Driving wheels.

Let's skate!!

Medieval grafitti

Resting place of Richard the Lionheart

Getting medieval

11 September 2014

Peronne, Villers Bretoneux, Le Hamel, Albert

Rainy Lille
Drove on, stopped at Lille. It was raining and we left after an hour, heading to Peronne. The town is small but the WW1 museum is packed. The campsite is really soaked. The pool is cool.

Art in Peronne from a WW1 soldier
Today we got John, picked up croissants for brekky and went to Villers Bretoneux; it is "Australie en Picardie". Most of the shops are shut. The newsagent asks where we're from and then gives us a bunch of pins with a French and an Australian flag. The Australian flag
is backwards, so it's an even rarer find.

The local school post war rebuild was paid for by some Australian soldier from Victoria. No other French school has a school hall or a little Australian France museum in there with WW1 memorabilia. The town has kangaroos painted around the place a Rue Victoria, and a Rue Melbourne. The Australian memorial is on the edge of town.
Rue de Kanga named by Aust soldiers

Next stop - Le Hamel and Monash's perfect attack that was all complete in 93 minutes. Some German general studied this attack before formulating their blitzgrieg tactics. All the different parts worked together at the right time to overwhelm the defence. Towards the end, a lot of tanks helped sway the war.

Finally the 1916 museum in Albert about life in the trenches. The location is a medieval tunnel. One touching story was of a Scot who carried an injured Englishman get back to a safe area. Just before they arrived, the Scot was also wounded. When they got to hospital, they had beds next to each other. The Scotsman knew he would die, and gave his kilt to the Englishman.  Now the kilt is in the museum.

Rue de Kanga 2014
Rue de Kanga 1914

Waiting for a boat at "Circular Quay"
We then popped by a few huge craters done by mining engineers going under the enemy trenches. At the first one, I got a personal tour from the owner, while everyone else stayed in the car because of the rain. There's heaps of tunnels hooking up the places around here, but it's not 100% safe to open them up for tourists.
Dying to be in there

Rue de Victoria, Villers Bretoneux

Rue de Melbourne, Villers Bretoneux

The town hall, Villers Bretoneux

A hug in Villers Bretoneux

Rue de Melbourne, Villers Bretoneux

They get a few visitors

The Aust memorial, Villers Bretoneux

The memorial got smashed in WW2, Villers Bretoneux

Who bagged the Red Baron? At Le Hamel.

Hercules at Le Hamel

Lochnagar crater - a *lot* of TNT