Category: Share Barbara’s Travel Journey

Last Full Day in France – Coullioure – Awesome

My last full day in France was spent with my good friends who recommended this trip as they own a place in Pepieux.  We drove to Coullioure, a most beautiful town built up the hill on the seaside.  It’s about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Pepieux.

It was market day there, so finding a parking spot was a major challenge.  First because of space, and second because the twisty windy roads were a major dodging act.  Some cars had to back up to let others go forward – there just wasn’t space for two cars.  And all done on a steep incline with standard transmission!!  Glad I wasn’t the driver.

We walked through all the various shops winding through the town, seaside restaurants, steep streets full of character – absolutely charming.  I’ve captured some of the essence in these pictures.  Hard to put into words.  Absolutely a great end to my month in France.  On to Amsterdam to visit family.  Home on Sunday.

Restaurant CoullioureSeaside CoullioureCoullioure Shopping Coullioure Steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Walking Route to Siran

Sunday morning, the circus van broke through my reverie over coffee.  It was circling the town broadcasting the show about to start in the afternoon.  How cool is that!  Guess they’re now on to the next village.

Got fed up being inside yesterday.  It was a very blustery, cool day with intermittent sun.  So, bundled up and ventured out for some fresh air and exercise.  Found a great spot along the path to do tai chi, and then pushed on for my walk.

So glad I did.  I had seen this road leading to the left on my usual route to Siran, the next village.  I decided to take it and see where it led.  Well, it was the back route to Siran – a lovely walk – quiet, not many people out, and only one car went by.  Of course, Sunday’s here are quiet.  No stores open.  No restaurants open.  People are home with their families.

Spotted an old ‘sun dial’ on a house in a side street that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  Went by a very old cemetery, and then on the way back, I was blessed to see the most beautiful rainbow spanning the hills.  It was like none other I had ever seen.  The colors were muted and soft, almost like a Monet watercolor, with rays of sunshine filtering through the colors.  I took a photo from my iPhone – a pale representation of a truly spectacular vision.

Sundial SiranCemetery SiranRainbow SiranLater in the day, went and shared a nightcap with friends from Calgary.  Was introduced to a special wine, a sweet wine, not available in Canada – Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois – vin doux naturel. What a great way to end the day!!

 

The Circus Came to Pepieux

I don’t know if you remember, but I do, when the circus used to be in a tent.  There would be a parade through town complete with Calliope, lions and elephants to the site where they pitched their tent.  We always watched the tent being put up – exciting.  Now the circus is held in auditoriums, mostly. Not nearly as interesting.

Well, today, I saw the real deal – a traveling circus in a tent.  Not a big circus, but it sure looked like fun, providing wonderful entertainment for all the villagers in rural France.

Circus Clown Pepieux Circus Tent & Miniature Horse Circus Ticket Booth

Visited with my friend for a while, and read my book, did laundry.  Nothing exciting, but just living in the moment.  It was enough.  That’s what is sometimes missing at home – the real stuff that is enough.

Quiet Day in Pepieux

Woke up to a cold and windy day which means a cool and damp inside.  Overheard a comment from a local when I picked up some whole walnuts for my cereal that it felt like December this morning.  Guess it isn’t only me who feels the cold.

Perfume in ToiletteSpent the day reading, checking emails, and reviewing notes. Found this picture taken in the ladies washroom at our autobahn stop yesterday enroute to Toulouse.  Found it rather amusing!

When ‘cabin fever’ struck, I drove over to Olanzac, the next village, for groceries.  It’s open all day unlike here in Pepieux. By the time I had lunch, the weather turned and the sun came out, Feeling the need to stretch my legs after all the traveling yesterday, I headed out for a long walk.  There’s a lovely road through the vineyards.  It’s less traveled as it’s mainly an access road for the workers.  It means I’m not always dodging cars.  Definitely much safer!

Finished the day with a glass of wine and pasta. Toasted my friend who was winging her way home.  Looking forward to a beautiful day tomorrow.

 

Took My Friend to the Airport Today

Sadly, it was time for my friend to return home.  I have one more week and then a visit in Amsterdam with my husband’s family before it’s my turn.

It made me think of the changes that have happened here since I arrived.  From my bedroom window, I look out onto the courtyard with a beautiful plane tree in front.  The branches were bare when I first took a picture upon arrival.  The second picture was taken a few days ago – three weeks later.  What a difference!  The whole countryside has exploded including all the vineyards.

Square 1st Week  Square 3rd Week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are wildflowers abounding alongside the road and in the fields.  Poppies are everywhere – and wild irises.  It’s beautiful.  I’ve tried to capture them in photos but really, it’s hard to catch the magic.

Poppies Wild Irises in Azille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight, the birds are chirping, the swallows are swooping through and the frogs are singing in the creek behind the houses.  Coach lights are on casting a soft glow over the square.  The quiet of evening is intoxicating.  I’d sit outside on the front stoop tonight if it was warmer as I have done in past evenings.  The feral cats of the village gather and try to figure out what this strange Canadian is doing sitting outside in the dark.  They especially look at me strange if I decide to do tai chi in the square before bed.

Time to go outside, close the shutters and call it a night.  I’m going to curl up with ‘Citadel’, the last book in the trilogy of this area by Kate Mosse.  Might even pour a glass of wine.  Life in France – ahhhhh!

Off Trekking to Azille – New Sights

You’d think the villages would become similar after a while, but not the case.  They each have their unique layout and points of interest.  Today was a beautiful day for a walk, so off we went to Azille – about 5 kms. from Pepieux.  This road is a little busier than others so in truth today, I jumped a ditch to avoid getting hit when a large lorry and car tried to pass on the narrow road right where I was walking.  Close call!

We arrived in the afternoon around 2:00 so all the stores were closed.  Still, there was a lot to explore while we listened to music being piped into the streets.  Walked a beautiful boulevard which lead around to an archway, the entrance to a stone staircase winding along the outside of the ramparts to the fields below.  Absolutely stunning views – and a weird set of outside steps going up the side of a house leading to nowhere it seems.

Azille BoulevardOutside Steps AzillePathway AzilleView from Pathway Azille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the bottom of the hill, we saw these beautiful white horses.  One of the places we wanted to visit was Camargue, a region south of Nimes where there are salt marshes and the famous white horses of Camargue.  Instead we found these two beautiful white horses in Azille.  A good reason to come back.  There is so much to see, one trip isn’t enough.  Not to leave out the other feature of this region, the many cats that roam the villages.  Here’s a cat motif over a window – too cool.

White Horses AzilleCat Motif Azille

 

We Walk – the French go ‘What????’

Very interesting in France.  My friend and I walk around here – on the roads and trails.  Cars go by on the narrow roads barely wide enough for two cars meaning we have to hit the ditch for two cars or make sure we’re way over on one side for one car.  But they always look in their rear view mirror as if they can’t quite believe we’re walking.  We find it hilarious.

Walking provides us a chance to see more.  We notice the wild flowers that bloom in the fields and the side of the roads – wild iris, poppies, and so many more I don’t know their names.  Vines have sprouted in the few weeks I’ve been here.  The whole area has greened up.  Plus we meet interesting people along the way in these little villages or historic sites – people we would have missed if we had driven.

True, there are some roads that are a bit too busy for safe walking, but there are many that work just fine.  Today we’re heading to Azille.  Haven’t been there yet.

Thought I’d share some pictures I took of one of the trails we walk on  – and what the houses look like from the outside – built into the ramparts of the city.  If you look high in the pictures, you’ll see terraces built in that overlook the vineyards that surround Pepieux.  There are mini gardens planted up there, and for those without terraces, there are garden plots along the other side of the little river that runs around the town.

River Path Terraces Along River

From where I sit writing this morning, I can hear the birds chirping, the church bell chiming the time, the quiet as it’s lunch time.  All the stores are closed.  People are home having lunch and resting before heading back to work.  Imagine doing that at home.

Yeah! The Rain Lifted – Out Exploring

Space HeaterIt rained yesterday.  Mostly housebound although we went to Olanzac for groceries.  Sat by the space heater to keep warm most of the day.  Only exploring we did was a walkabout of  the village after dinner when it stopped raining.  Got a chance to do my tai chi in an open shelter in the schoolyard.  I figured it was how they got the kids out for some fresh air when it was raining.  Good idea.

This afternoon, we went to see a historic site, the Chappel Saint Germain (11th – 12th century).  Apparently, as best I can remember, there was a village by this church.  When the villagers kept getting ill, they eventually figured out that the ground was toxic.  They moved the village but were unable to move the church.  It sits by itself in this clearing – a quiet, peaceful spot to just be.  My friends who have a place here often walk up there – he to paint, her to do needlepoint – and just enjoy the ambiance.

Chappel Saint Germain 1 Chappel Saint Germain 2

On the way back, we noticed a small campfire burning, so alerted a lady who lived in the one lone building behind the church who then took steps to put it out.  Further down the road, we met a charming couple who live in Paris but were here visiting his parents.  They were enjoying their habitual nature walk which included looking for wild asparagus by the road.  Apparently it is really good in omelets.  Learned something new.  As they were heading back to their car, they led us to a side road – an old Roman road – and a cave dating back to the Middle Ages.  Standing there, you can imagine what it must have been like all those years ago.  We never would have found this on our own.

Cave nr St. Germain 1 Cave nr St. Germain 2

Each day here, we learn more, adventure further, or just enjoy the peace that is Pepieux.  No stores were open today.  It’s Easter Monday.  People here, especially in the smaller villages, have different values – good ones – for healthy living.  We could learn.

A Quiet Cool Easter in France

Woke up to rain this morning and church bells ringing.  When it was time for the Easter service, they definitely rang for a long time to make sure people knew it was time.  Usually the church bells chime every half hour and hour throughout the day and night.  Not sure I’d like to live beside the church.

The weather has settled into a cool, damp day with sporadic showers promised.  We just put on the space heater in our place to cut the chill.  No central heating in these parts.  It was like this the first few days I arrived.  Froze – tired from jet lag and unused to cool – I lived in front of the heaters.

Glad we did our last bit of adventuring yesterday.  It was a beautiful day – windy, but sunny and warm.  We went back to Narbonne to take in the Inner Market that we missed.  I thought it might be more like the outdoor markets that we attended in Olanzac and Lezignan, but this one was definitely different.  Mostly food – all cuts of meat, chickens (with the head and feet on – yuck), seafood, tubs of olives, stands of asparagus which are in season right now (not my favorite vegetable), local honey, cheese, pastries and breads, and probably most important of all – bars serving wine and beer.  Wouldn’t see that in Canada.

Narbonne Market Front asparagus Chickens Narbonne Market 1 The Bar Narbonne Market Vegetables Narbonne

Headed out for the afternoon to Narbonne Plage (Narbonne Beach) about 20 minutes of winding road south to the Mediterranean.  Awesome!  I love beaches and the sea.  There were rows of what looked like holiday houses (like our cottages) along the beach road, a promenade for pedestrian and cycle traffic, and a wide clean beach that stretched for as far as you could see.  We were warned that it might be crowded on the weekend, but I think the weather deterred people, so it was relatively quiet.  Saw all the usual beach tourist shops and restaurants.  If we’d known more about this place, we would have waited to have our lunch here.  Saw plates of mussels, seafood – looked delicious.  Next time!

Beach Houses Narbonne Plaige a Narbonne Plaige a

Roman Ruin aAs we drove back to Pepieux, we realized our timing was perfect.  The traffic was heavy heading the other way.  We figure most people worked the half day Saturday and were now heading to the beach for the weekend.  A great day – we got back windblown and tired but happy.  Plus we stopped at a Roman ruin alongside the road – a reminder of times past.

Had an Unwelcome Visitor This Morning

2014-04-18 03.37.03Guess I didn’t do all my research before I left, but apparently this part of France has scorpions.  This morning, as I took my laptop bag out from under the chair where I store it out of sight, a scorpion was curled up by the cord.  We both jumped and got into instant action trapping it under a glass until we figured out how to get rid of it.  Eventually we swept it into a dustpan with a broom and took it outside.  Whew!  Think I’ll be checking my clothes, shoes, and bedding now!!!!

After that adventure, we were really awake so decided to head over to Minerve for the afternoon.  Monique hadn’t been there and it is worth a second visit for me.  The weather is due to change – cool, windy and rainy – so we’re making sure we get our ‘A’ list of things to see done before she heads back home soon.

Here are a few more pictures from Minerve that I missed the last time, especially one of the catapult that was used in the 1200’s to demolish and stop the villagers from accessing their water supply.  They fired over the huge gorge that normally protected the village. Eventually Minerve had to surrender as they ran out of water and food supplies.  Sad, because in the surrender, many Cathars were burned at the stake.  Life was harsh in those days – and from the news, I think still is in many parts of our world.

2014-04-18 08.12.24 2014-04-18 08.05.06 2014-04-18 08.29.35

Tomorrow is Narbonne for the market we missed the last time, and then off to the Mediterranean.  We’re only about 20 minutes from the sea at Narbonne.  There is a festival of Tall Ships in Sete which is quite a bit further.  We’re hoping most of the holiday traffic will head over there.