Out at last!

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Europe » France » Burgundy » Beaune
June 4th 2007
Published: June 4th 2007
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Stealing Wi Fi..... Following this episode most of you received several E-Mails!!
I know, I know, having not heard from us for 3 months, some of you then suddenly get 8 Blog alerts. You are not alone. I even managed to send them to myself.
The Blog site suffered a serious gremlin attack. Whilst sneakily sending some of you the alert, it was telling me,
“error, unable to publish”.
I did what any normal computer-impatient person would do, and just kept hitting the send button….. 8 times apparently!
It then published the Blog in some parallel universe, where it could only be accessed in a most convoluted manner…..but not by me, who, at this time, still thought it unpublished, and continued to hit that key.
I then found I wasn’t the only one having a problem. Ali, the poor guy who runs Travelblog, was receiving many “help me” e-mails.

It is not always that easy to send the Blog. At times you have to be a little inventive. On this occasion I was sitting on the doorstep of Grazalema’s one and only Estate Agent, stealing his WiFi connection, (now illegal in the UK we hear from Radio 4!) and could not see the screen properly. Hence, I did not see how

After weeks in Grazalema we abandon hope and leave... This is our farewell lunch, with Patrick & Marion, without whom......... and Jane & Pete.. Thanks chaps
many other people had mailed in with the same problem. If I had it might have given me a clue and saved Ali from yet another stupid question in his time of stress. Oh well….

So, where were we? Oh yes, fighting the system in Grazalema. We spent another couple of weeks there supposedly tying up loose ends. The truth is Grazalema spent the time tying us up instead. There was rumour of the imminent arrival of the kitchen. By now we knew better than to unconditionally believe this, particularly as it would have been “on time”. Graeme decided to check.
Patrick rang the shop for us, (by now he didn’t even have to say who he was ringing for). Yes, they replied, the kitchen may or may not be here soon, and no, they had not yet communicated with the builder. We checked with the builder, who had after all had 6 weeks to prepare the kitchen area for the installation, & alert the plumber & electrician, and who now, despite the fact we had mentioned it several times over the last few weeks, expressed shock, horror, surprise & claimed to know nothing about any such kitchen!?%
Campsite GroupCampsite GroupCampsite Group

Pepe & Pepa our campsite host's and Fernando the owner. For much of the time it was only the 5 of us in the camp site. Pepa loved the rig so much we had to check for stowaways before we left.
why did they leave that large hole in the wall for an extractor fan we asked ourselves?

Graeme & Patrick had yet another final meeting with the builder to try and clarify the situation along with a few other problems.
Nothing too important but interesting never the less, such as …..
Just why was the original estimate based purely on the living space, whilst the final bill is calculated on the actual constructed m2?
Reply, “No sei, can’t imagine how that happened” said Jose Maria, the builder.
“Perhaps it was to make your quote look more competitive?” Graeme suggested.
He shrugged & smiled.
And, how come we had 60 electrical sockets? The average Spanish family in this village only has about 4 electrical appliances & we had 12 doubles in the basement alone! At this rate we could supply the electrical outlets for the entire village…… and perhaps we were. We half expect to return to the village later in the year to find a mass of extension leads running out of our basement & snaking all over town, like a mesh of rat’s tails !
Oh and why was there still a waterfall in the basement?
The builder
Pretty river bankPretty river bankPretty river bank

Wild flowers cover the countryside.
smiled pleasantly and agreed with everything………………….

Before we left we decided to enquire about marketing the house outside the village. We drove to Ronda, the nearest large town, to seek out an Estate Agent.
Now, as much as we liked Sergio in Grazalema we were a little perplexed by the fact that having accepted the house to sell there was no apparent immediate effort to market it. It was coming up to a holiday weekend, a period when many visitors would pass through the village. A good time to advertise perhaps? We enquired several times as to whether or not it might be helpful to display a picture in the window. A ploy most Estate Agents in the UK use with some success. Obviously not a method used here, as one never appeared.

Our visit to Ronda soon put us more clearly in the picture on the techniques of Spanish house sales.
We entered the “we speak English” Estate Agents which was situated in a prominent position in Ronda town. Unfortunately on that day, their “We speak English” was about as good as our “We speak Spanish”. Having eventually established that no, we didn’t wish to rent or buy a house, but had one to sell, the obviously disinterested girl became even more disinterested.
“Where is the property situated?“ She asked.
“Grazalema” we replied.
“Oh no, that’s not really our area…..”
“Really, where would you suggest we try, you are the nearest major town?”
“Setenil? Where is that?” (Never heard of it.)
“Oh not far, much nearer to Grazalema”.
“Are you sure?” We asked, having never passed another town on our journey in to Ronda.

We soon discovered that it was a small town about 8 miles in the wrong direction. Beautiful village built into the side of a mountain. Nevertheless, still in the wrong direction, and the last place in the world you would go to look for a house in Grazalema.

Eventually, after a bit of discussion, she said that “IF” we wanted to take some pictures and “IF” we wanted to write a description, they might display it. I felt she missed off the words “if they had to” from the end of the sentence.

Frustrated, we took the usual route and went for coffee, during which time we rapidly decided that perhaps Sergio was actually quite dynamic and not so
Distant BenidormDistant BenidormDistant Benidorm

Looks good from afar doesn't it? Still we were grateful for that cold beer once we got there.
laid back after all, & we like him.

So after much to-ing and fro-ing, organising and getting nowhere, we decided to take the Spanish approach to this problem…… ……………………….. Smile, shrug your shoulders, & walk away!
We decided to leave and let the situation sort itself out.
No wonder no one leaves this village. They are all too busy just trying to survive.

After many weeks here, we washed and spring-cleaned the rig, in preparation for our departure, watched with great interest by anyone passing by. Having warned Pepa & Pepe many times previously we were leaving, we informed them, that this time we really were leaving, and asked for the ever-growing bill. They all thought Christmas had come early (or late) as we handed over many euros….although we did manage to negotiate a discount.

By now we had become a bit of a fixture here, if only because of our large physical presence, and would be missed. So with much excitement, seven weeks after our arrival (about 5 more then anticipated), we exited the gate somewhat easier than we had entered, and were on our way.

It was really a different season from the one
Alicante CastleAlicante CastleAlicante Castle

We decided it would not take us to long to walk to the top! Mistake, the lift may have been a little quicker.
we arrived in, & as we drove along the mountain roads, many spring flowers and trees were coming into bloom. This really is a beautiful area. I almost felt like staying a few days more!

After weeks in a completely Spanish village, our next stop was in Altea, just outside Benidorm.
This was possibly, one of the biggest contrasts/comparisons in our journey to date.
Our hard (L)earned Spanish was now redundant, partly because the small amount of Spanish we had perfected had a distinctly Andalucian accent to it that no one else understood, and partly because, almost everyone here spoke English.

Benidorm would not normally be a stop of our choice. We planned to stay in this area because Graeme wanted to see Micky, an old friend from his rock n’ roll bus driving days, who now lives up the road, and Kim a relative who also lives nearby. We knew there was a park, with full hook-ups, that took large vehicles.
So from camping out in the beautiful hills of Grazalema we were now in a park providing full services for the rig, i.e. water, electric, sewer, & Wi-Fi.
It also offered 2 swimming pools (one outdoor, one indoor), Jacuzzi, gym. Health spa and restaurant. Guess which site I preferred?
Our space faced the pool and gym complex. Graeme’s response to all these keep-fit facilities was to nod his head in time to the music whilst watching the attractive young Spanish girls bounce around in the aerobic and spinning classes, …. It’s his age!
Here, for the first time in Europe, we met up with several other people in American Motor homes, including John and Sandy. They had also shipped their Rig back ,unfortunately their local DVLA office refused to register it. In response they had driven it to Spain and had been parked here ever since.

It had been many years since Graeme’s last visit to Benidorm and he was interested to see if it had improved since then. So we took a trip into town.
The answer was NO.
Any continental person here must think the English are quite poor and cannot afford many clothes. An easy mistake to make, because they certainly don’t wear many, even in the main streets. It would not be so bad if we were talking about Brad Pitt here, but let’s get real, consider Englishman + beer +

This scene has become one of thoses unanswered mysteries of life... Just why was this naked man raking the pebbles on the beach.
Friday night curry & chips, not in the first flush of youth, and no shirt
= v. unpleasant sight. ………..

Observing the dress sense of the English holidaymakers here, encouraged an immediate review our wardrobe. The intention was to throw out all those clothes I knew we really should not still be wearing, or be seen dead in, but are so comfy, and such old favourites, that you just keep on wearing them.
The trouble is, at this point in our travel that amounts to a large part of my wardrobe, and almost all of Graeme’s. So, having pulled them all out and gazed fondly at them, I put them back in and shut the wardrobe door.
The words “pot” and “kettle” passed through my mind. .

Now, the English are not the only ones who are keen to remove their clothing………….. The Germans are quite snappy at it as well. Only for them their figure is nourished by Lager and Bratwurst.

Over time we have observed that a German camper can drive in, park up, plug in, put out the picnic stuff and remove his (and it is usually his) clothes, all in a matter of
Roman CircusRoman CircusRoman Circus

Graeme lurking in the underground tunnels of the Roman Circus. This is one of the best preserved examples in the western world.
minutes. It is an amazing feat to observe.

Now, whilst on the subject of taking clothes off……… One warm day we took a walk along the coast, and en route, came across a rather lovely isolated bay. We gazed down upon it, the water looked invitingly blue, & Graeme fancied a dip, so I suggested that as there was no one around, he just have a “skinny dip”.
As we descended we saw there were in fact a few people on the beach, & as we got closer we noticed there was a distinct lack of clothing along with a distinct lack of women.

Once we got to ground level it all became a bit surreal. Just what were these people doing? And why were they hiding in the rocks? Still, live and let live. We continued to scramble across the rocks to dip a toe into the ocean, found our own isolated rock, and sat down. Well it was just like a scene from the “Clangers”, men appeared out of burrows from all directions. …… I think they were looking for new friends! At this point I must just offer up, from personal observation, a fashion tip.
Tamarit Tamarit Tamarit

View from the camp site beach and our Rig.
If you are a male and if are going to wander around rather proudly naked, you should think quite carefully about just where you wear your Bum bag….. It can be quite distracting so to speak.
So we sat a while, gazing out at the sea.
Eventually I asked Graeme if he was going for a dip.
He had gone off the idea.
Chuckling to ourselves we continued on our “It’s only a 3 kms walk to Benidorm” which actually took over 3 hours!

Our destination from here was Tarragona, a beautiful ancient city. It was from here in 218 BC Scipio’s march against Hannibal commenced, which lead to the Roman conquest of the peninsula.

Graham & Sue, who we met at the Almafra park told us of a park where they thought we would fit, as they had stayed there in their 32ft Diplomat. Getting to it was a bit of a “Mexican moment” for us where, if we didn’t know there was definitely a park at the end of the lane we would have been a little anxious to continue on.
We arrived to find a lovely Park, where they were quite happy to accept
Tamarit windowTamarit windowTamarit window

I just loved this window. The whole tiny old town of Tamarit is painted lovely pastel shades of orange & blue
us. “Walk around and find a space” they suggested. So we did. We immediately discounted their suggestions; as they were impossible to access, & went on to find our own.
As the park was relatively empty we rejected a few good spots because we thought it a bit mean to park right next to a fellow camper & block out their light ,when it was empty all around them.
We studied the route, height of trees, size of space and potential neighbours and settled on a site.
It took a while to do this, and on return we found the couple who had been standing staring at the rig since we pulled up at Reception, were still there.

Graeme got into the rig, I walked in front (all I need is a red flag) and we set off through the camp site.
We slightly misjudged one turn because there was a bike rack screwed to the ground taking up space. Until now we had been fairly unobtrusive, but we caused a bit of a stir when, to enable Graeme to reverse the rig down the road, we did a 3 point turn. At this point things livened up a
Watching crowdWatching crowdWatching crowd

A small group watching us park up, the rest are behind the Rig.
bit, as everyone poured out of the beach bar to assist.

Now I have a theory that the reason generalisations exist are because generally they are true.
So, during our journey through the park everyone acted true to their role. The Germans and Dutch “tutted”. The Spanish generally enjoyed the whole thing ,helping by offering lots of arm waving supplemented by efforts to wrench the cycle rack, rubbish bins and planters out of the ground to make it easier for us (that went down well!)… And amongst all of this activity a very nice English chap giving sensible directions.
However, if we are really talking of generalisations here we were missing the tattooed, thuggish “tea-like-mother-makes-Watneys-Red-Barrel” Brit who would probably gleefully remove our wheels as soon as we had parked up.

“The Couple” who had continued to follow us all the way from reception, through the camp ground, didn’t join either the tutters or helpers; they just continued their silent Zombie gaze.

As we turned into our spot we had to manoeuvre a little. At this point an irrate Dutch man parked on the corner spot, leapt to his feet and started shouting loudly, whilst pointing at the
Pile of people?Pile of people?Pile of people?

This area is famed for "The Castellers" who for some reason leap on to each others shoulders and form a human tower. We missed the event but came upon this sculpture in Tamarit
Now, although I know no Flemish, I quite clearly got the gist of what he was trying to communicate with the universal language of sign. He obviously was very cross because we were making the muddy road muddy!
By this time the situation was a bit like the Pied piper. Whilst still trying to manoeuvre Graeme had, surrounding the rig , quite a large very happy Spanish crowd, the irrate jumping Dutch man, the helpful English chap, a few other generally interested families, some very excitable kids, a barking dog or two and…………………….. the staring couple. At this point, as some one who hates to draw attention to herself, or to stand out in a crowd, I realised perhaps, I was travelling in the wrong vehicle?

Later whilst supping a well earned beer Graeme said all he could see in his minds eye was the woman, walking in front of the windscreen as he reversed down the road, silently gazing up at him, like something out of “Dawn of the Dead”.
We decide then that for the Northern Europeans it had all gone horribly wrong when the Romans left.

Once ensconced in our spot, we discovered Graham
Sagrada FamiliaSagrada FamiliaSagrada Familia

The Passion facade with the "magic Square" in the background. In whatever direction you add up the numbers, they always come to 33.
& Sue were right. It was a lovely park, right on the ocean front, great sandy beach, a Castle to one end and the small town of Tamarit, to the other. It was just a short train ride to Tarragona, and an hour to Barcelona.

During the week I occasionally caught Graeme looking pensive and quietly casting glances at the trees, planters and the road around us. I decided this could only mean trouble as he must be concerned about us getting out
Throughout the week as we chatted to people they asked when we would be leaving. It then got a little more precise;
“Which day?”
“Oh Wednesday”
“And what time will that be?”
We gradually realised that they were probably organising their day’s activities around our departure, or running a campsite sweepstake.
We should have joined in the betting as, unbeknown to them, the Campsite Manager had agreed to keep the site opposite free to facilitate out departure.

One day, we were having lunch on the beach when a larger then average European camper arrived. We watched with interest as he pulled onto a beach front spot and. ………… promptly got stuck in the sand. Our hearts went out to him when he acquired the usual team of observers.
I was quite keen to join in myself, but Graeme wouldn’t let me go!

From here we visited Tarragona which, despite its increasingly enlarging industrial outskirts, retains a beautiful historical old city.
Now protected as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

If you like Roman ruins this is the place to visit as Tarragona boasts of some of the finest. We spent a day gazing at The Amphitheatre, Forum, Aqueduct, Temples, Circus (no, not one with animals) and walls, much of which survive after having been incorporated into the 19th Century buildings. So, as you glance into a house or shop, you can see a huge slab of 2nd century Roman Wall contained within.
It is a lovely place to spend a day or two and if you are a fan of Roman ruins, medieval architecture, shopping or long lazy lunches I can highly recommend a visit.

From Tamarit we also took a train ride into Barcelona. I am not a “big city” fan, but I really enjoy this one. Like neighbouring Tarragona it is by the Sea, has beautiful parks, ruins,
Roof  of Sagrada FamiliaRoof  of Sagrada FamiliaRoof of Sagrada Familia

There is a saying in Barcelona that "The only roof good enough for the Sagrada Familia is God's sky" All Gaudi's designs were based on forms of Nature. These pillars are based on the Plane Trees of Barcelona.
modern shopping, great restaurants, but has the added attraction of Antoni Gaudís buildings.
Gaudí, one of the renowned modernist architects of his era, was responsible for many of the unique buildings in this city, The Sagrada Familia probably being the most famous of them all is Spain’s 3rd most visited building.

Gaudí commenced work on the Sagrada Familia project in 1883 and worked on it for the last 40 year of his life. On the subject of the extremely long construction period, Gaudí is said to have joked, "My client is not in a hurry” Which is a good job, as the building process continues to this day. In fact the expected completion date is projected to be; 2017, 2026….., 2035 …….. or 2046.
Uhm! Sounds like our builder!

The progress of this project suffered many set backs over the years.
Not least the death of the architect who, one night 40 yrs into the project stepped back to admire the work so far, and promptly got run over by a tram!
At the time of his death only one facade, one tower, the apse and the crypt were finished. They also had to contend with the loss of plans following a fire; the destruction of parts of the building during the Spanish civil war; and a general lack of funds.

Over the last 20 years, every time Graeme has visited Barcelona he has dropped in to see how the Sagrada Familia is progressing. Since our last visit about 6 years ago the building has really developed and now has a complete shell and most of a roof, held up by a wonderful forest of columns.

A particular trademark of Gaudi’s style was this incorporation of the forms of nature into his architectural designs.
In a museum in Reus (Gaudí's birthplace) there is an exhibition showing many examples of this, placing photographs of natural forms like Redwood trees, rippling desert sands, or cresting waves, alongside Gaudí's work. Having seen this, I looked at the Sagrada Familia in a different light this time.
It is truly an extraordinary building.

Following his death, several architects and sculptors have worked on the project. As there were no plans for them to follow they complemented Gaudí’s style with their own interpretations and designs.
The newest sculptures of Joseph Subirach, on the passion façade, of gaunt, tormented characters, caused an
Casa BatlloCasa BatlloCasa Batllo

One of Gaudi's wonderful buildings. It is also known as the "House or Yawns" or "House Of Bones"
outcry when first seen. However, realising that the genius of Gaudi’s designs, which hail from a different time, cannot be copied or re-created, he decided to follow his own muse & produce designs sympathetic to the original. He also felt that Gaudi would not have wanted his successors to just produce carbon copies of his work.
Although I wasn’t convinced the first time I saw them, now I really like them. There is something very simple and compelling about them.

Interestingly, today’s computers have been introduced to assist in the complex mathematical design and construction of the building, but Gaudí was so advanced with his calculations, that, when checked on the computer they are accurate to the nth degree.

Barcelona is a city for which you need weeks to explore. We had been here several times before but still walked for miles and many hours around areas we had not visited previously, still barely touching the surface.
Back at Tamarit 12 hours later, we felt we had done our best.

Tamarit was a place we could have spent more time in but we had a “date”
It was time to move out, and what an anti-climax it
look out!look out!look out!

Head Line....... Grand prix fans in chainsaw horror
proved to be. After Graeme’s anxious moments we pulled out, manoeuvred twice and with a cheery wave set off down the road.

Our “Date” was to be at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montmelo just outside Barcelona. This had been a last minute decision for us, so we had contacted our friend Tony who we knew was going and arranged to meet up.

When we arrived to park in the, at this point, empty field, the guide showed us a place that was just perfect for us.
It turned out to be more perfect than first expected.
At these events you usually just get to park in a field with a few somewhat less than savoury services on offer. After all, it only cost €40 for 5 nights parking. But no, here we found rows of shower cubicles, hot water, loads of toilets; all cleaned every day….. well, until the last one, when things did get a bit rank! Let’s not go into the river of……..no ok!

Other campers arrived. We watched with interest as some rolled out very long electric cables. Graeme went to observe / enquire what was happening.
It turned out these were well prepared campers who were plugging extension leads into the electric sockets in the ladies portable shower cabins. Our neighbour offered us a share in his extension lead, which we happily accepted.
Now for our €40 we also had free electricity, which worked perfectly well until someone who, for some reason known only to herself, found it necessary, whilst camping in a dusty field, in 80+ degrees of heat to dry her hair, and unplugged everyone.……… several times.
I was sent to investigate the “Power cut” only to find the lead lying in a nice soapy puddle of water!
Still, this was better than the time someone plugged it back in, upside down, thus reversing the polarity!

The race was OK, but the best entertainment and atmosphere, was camping in a field full of fanatical Spanish Alonso fans. It was absolute chaos.
I could just imagine these people packing for a camping trip checking off their list…… Tent Si, sleeping bag Si, Beer Si, OK that’s the 3 main essentials dealt with, then ……… fire crackers, bangers, fire works, chain saw!!! Oh at the last moment the bear outfit. (See picture)

Our timing turned out to be perfect. From our arrival on Wednesday evening there was a constant stream of Camper vans & tents, filling every space in our field, before eventually spilling out into the adjoining ones.
Over the course of the following days & nights the area quickly descended into Mediaeval Bacchanalia. Apart from the usual crowd of fans wearing merchandise to support their particular favourite driver, drinking & generally enjoying themselves, there was a group of Frenchmen with a large truck & attendant sound system, who would foray out of their encampment after sunset, armed with chainsaws, spotlights, flares, & fireworks, dressed in unusual guise.
Our neighbours, who fortunately were also French, had decided to go to bed early on the first night, but were rudely awakened by the invasion of their small tent by a large bear with the head of Chirac (the ex French President) wielding a rather noisy chainsaw, & his accomplice carrying a searchlight! Somewhat perturbed by this, they exited their tent rather hurriedly, to find a crowd of cheering people outside. They didn’t repeat the mistake.

Tony & Tony, who we had met up with in Barcelona on the Friday, decided to forgo their Hotel in the city to
Carcassonne  by nightCarcassonne  by nightCarcassonne by night

It was a view like this I remembered from all those years sgo
spend the night after the race in the rig.
We had a fabulous, quite exhausting few days and on the Sunday we sat drinking our beers with the Two Tones, watching the 3 hour traffic jam dissipate. A good way to end a great weekend.

That evening we noticed the rig had never been quite so dirty. We blitzed the inside, but outside there was not much we could do. One problem of being on the road all the time is that very few places allow you to wash your vehicle.
That night the weather blew up into a storm. As we listened to the rain pounding on the roof, Graeme said it would be a good time to wash the rig
I agreed but only if it didn’t involve me!

We have found there are actually loads of places that can take a vehicle our size. They often don’t know that fact until we turn up and park, but there are.
We identify some sites first, and then phone to ask:
“Do you have large sites? do you have low trees?, do you have clear access? Are there tight turns?” Etc
“Why?” they ask,
“Oh, because we
Carcassonne TowersCarcassonne TowersCarcassonne Towers

Just wouldn't look the same with a flat roof, would it?
are about the size of a bus” we reply.
“No problem” they say.

When we arrive there is usually quite a bit of excitement, and invariably they say:
“But you are the size of a bus!!!”
However the last few places we have stayed have been wonderful and we have fitted easily.

When we were in America and most, no, let’s be honest here, all but 2 people said:
“You can’t possibly drive that over there”
I almost started to believe them. Interestingly enough quite a lot of Europeans have said that too. However, as just mentioned, with a little research there are many places to stay, the roads travelled so far have been fabulous, well maintained, and the main ones have large hard shoulders. Then there are the “Aires” in France and Service areas in Spain where you can stay overnight, for free. Most offer many facilities, restaurants, shops, showers, often with fabulous views. In fact, most European countries offer excellent, safe, free overnight parking. So when on the move we always have an option to overnight in one of these.
The UK, however, is the exception. Here you have to pay around £20 if you want
Carcassonne Carcassonne Carcassonne

This castle was v nearly demolished in 1849, but such a fuss ensued restoration began instead.
to stay overnight in a Motorway Service Area. In fact, if you stay over 2 hours they can charge you!.....& this includes truck drivers, who have to take their legal break, for safety reasons.).
Shopping has also been no problem, as we stop either, just as we arrive, or leave, to stock up. In fact one of the most useful things about Rig life is that you only have to unload the bags once.

From Spain our journey took us North to our first stop in France, which was Carcassonne.
Many years ago I went on a school trip to Spain (remember this Emma?) Somewhere outside Carcassonne they stopped the minibus, & told us to get out and walk around the corner. I remember being astonished to see this beautiful old city, balancing on the hillside, bathed in light.
I looked forward to revisiting it.

Carcassonne was once a frontier settlement between France & Spain. There has been a settlement, or fortification here since 3500BC. The Romans first fortified the hill 100 years BC, and it became an important trading place in
6 AD. Over the centuries the simple fortifications grew into this magnificent walled city.
The city
Millau ViaductMillau ViaductMillau Viaduct

Is that Bagdad I see over there?
was actually at its strongest during the time it was least threatened. In 1659 the Treaty of Pyrenees transferred the border province of Roussillon to France, thereby reducing Carcassonnes military and geographical significance. Over the following years the city gradually fell into disrepair, until in 1849, there was a move to demolish it and use the stones for other projects. There was such an outcry that, in 1853, it was decided to inaugurate a restoration project.
The task was given to Viollet-le-Duc, a great architect of the day, who worked on the project for 58 years.
The restoration, however, was strongly criticized during Viollet-le-Duc's lifetime. He was used to working on buildings in the north of France, where the custom was to build pointed cone shaped, slate-tiled roofs, whereas, in the snow-free environment of this area, it was local practice to use tiled roofs with low slopes.
(It’s a thankless task this renovation buisiness.)
On completion however, the restoration was agreed to be a work of genius.
The city, safe behind its double ring of ramparts with 53 towers, once again gazed out over the surrounding countryside.
From here on, instead of Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Franks, now only
Balancing house, Millau Balancing house, Millau Balancing house, Millau

Whilst standing gazing at this Mill a lady rushed out of her house to show me a picture of it when it was still attached to the bridge.
to be invaded by tourists.

It was here we experienced one of those strange (to us) continental paradoxes.
In Spain we had become accustomed to our daily 1€ coffee which was very nice. But I think France may be the only nation that can make coffee that tastes worse then mine.

Carcassonne, being a tourist area had coffee shops galore, and advertised cappuccino’s, although here they were €4 not 1. (I feel the irony here is that the city now pillages the invaders).
We looked in, they had the correct machine, so we decided to splash out and try one. Luckily it was only one. It was awful, really strong, flat and topped with Chantilly cream, not a cappuccino as we know it.

However, at lunch a bottle of very nice wine automatically appeared with the food. We thought we had ordered a glass but, Oh well, we would do our best.
The strange thing is, the horrible coffee was €4 but the very nice bottle of wine only €5.
Unanimous decision made………….from here on, we only order wine.

Our next planned destination was to be Beaune in Burgundy, where we would meet up with Mike
Graemes new busGraemes new busGraemes new bus

After jaunting around in this vehicle for the Viaduct tour Graeme now fancies a motorhome with a sunroof.
and Anne-Marie, at their beautiful home in the village of Echevronne. Graeme decided he would like to take the route along the A75 through the Massif Central. This area covers approximately one 6th of France’s land mass, and is the most rugged and geographically diverse region of the country. It is also one of the least visited areas due to the windy, mountainous, slow roads. Years ago Graeme, whilst on tour, had driven this route. Now they have built a new state of the art Viaduct, and a new Autoroute. He wanted to see how it had changed.
The Viaduct is an engineering marvel; it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world and very beautiful. The designer, not content with having to struggle to solve this engineering problem with a beautiful, innovative, workable, design also thought about the public. It is designed with a curve so drivers can see and admire the bridge in its entirety on approach, or so we were told.
A nice story but in truth I think it is to strengthen the bridge in high winds.

Now I could quote you all the salient facts about this Viaduct but I much prefer the
 Millau Viaduct  Millau Viaduct Millau Viaduct

Different view, not bad is it?
version that follows. Often, I use a site on the internet called Wikipedia to research the area we are in. This is an interactive information base, and usually pretty accurate. I started to read the following text. Funny I thought, I didn’t know there was an Iraq in France, and continued to read the following……….. Spot the deliberate errors:

“The Milllau Viaduct (French: le Viaduc de Milllau) is a wrestlemania road-bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Milllau in southern Iraq. Designed by an English architect, Norman Foster, in collaboration with French bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one pier's summit at 3430 metres (1000000,12500 ft)—slightly taller than the garbage can and only 38 m (125 ft) shorter than the garbage can. It was formally dedicated on 14 December 2008 and opened to traffic two milleniums later
Milllau Viaduct is located in Milllau, Iraq.44.077165° N 3.022887° E. Before the bridge was constructed, traffic had to descend into the Tarn River valley and pass along the route nationale N9 near the town of Millau, causing heavy congestion at the beginning and end of the July and july vacation season.

Where next?
The bridge now traverses the Tarn valley above its lowest point, linking the causse du Larzac to the causse rouge, and is inside the perimeter of the Grands Causses regional natural park.
The bridge forms the last link of the A75 autoroute, (la Méridienne) from Clermont-Ferrand to Pézenas (to be extended to Béziers by 2100). The A75756, with the A10095643 and A71567845688, provides a continuous high-speed route south from baghdad through Clermont-Ferrand to the Languedoc region and through to afghanistan, considerably reducing the cost of vehicle traffic travelling along this route. Many tourists heading to southern iraq and afgahistan follow this route because it is direct and without tolls for the 340 km between Clermont-Ferrand to Pézenas, except for the bridge itself.
The Al quaeda group operates the viaduct as a hostage area, with the toll currently (Nov 2006) set at €50000 for light hostages and €55000 for overweight hostages(€60000 during the peak months of July and August). The bridge was constructed by the al quaeda group, under a government contract which allows the company to kill hostages for up to 750 years” .

I wonder how many people are now a bit confused?
When I returned to
Office dayOffice dayOffice day

Graeme at work it's not all holiday you know. We spent several days sat in the bar of the campground catching up on "stuff" much to the facination of the staff.
the site to show Graeme this version, it had been corrected and was nowhere near as interesting. ,

So, having gazed at this wonderful bridge and toured round it, under it and over it, we found a lovely park situated on the river bank in Millau.

Millau is an old town situated where the Rivers Tarn and Dourbie meet. It is a quiet, peaceful, area, which until now has had minimal tourism, due to its inaccessibility. Its main claim to fame was for the glove manufacturing industry based here, and as the Paragliding centre of France.
The Viaduct has now been added to that list.

Millau has had its five minutes of international fame though. In 1999 Jose Bove a local Farmer, and anti-globalisation activist, assisted by some like minded people dismantled the almost completed McDonald’s building, loaded all the rubble onto trucks and tractors, drove it through town and dumped it outside the Town Hall.
It was hormone-treated beef that had sparked this action. Such beef had been blocked from entering European markets by the EU on health grounds. In tit-for-tat trade retaliation, the US, backed by the WTO, imposed high tariffs on some 'luxury' European
Rig hiding in vineyardRig hiding in vineyardRig hiding in vineyard

Perhaps Mike won't see us sneaking up?
food products, including Roquefort cheese. This dealt a severe economic blow to this area, as Roquefort is just up the road. So the construction of the McDonald’s in Millau, to sell this hormone-treated meat to the locals, in a sesame seed bun with 'French' fries seemed to add insult to injury.

Not too surprisingly Monsieur Bove had to attend court. This took place in rather a typical French manner. Bove and his partners in crime turned up on the back of a tractor and at the head of a considerable crowd of supporters, demonstrators and members of the public, who simply turned up to enjoy the well-organised event. Traditional French fare was available at stands and all kinds of lobby groups organised events to make it a sort of family day out. He was sentenced to 3 months in jail. Monsieur, obviously not one to miss a media opportunity made the most of this. On the day he had to report to commence his sentence, he set off on his tractor accompanied by a long line of tractors, police and media vehicles, which rolled through the countryside at a stately pace; ensuring Bove arrived some eight hours late for
My TurnMy TurnMy Turn

Can I jump yet? Oops no pilot
his 8:30 a.m. appointment at the prison.

On release, having paid his dues he was invited by Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations to a conference in America. Obviously, as the US Government fully supports freedom of speech, free trade, & Democracy, you would expect Monsieur Bove to have no problem entering the Land of the Free to attend. After all, he hadn’t committed a crime in the US, was well known as a passive activist, and had frequently visited in the past, but no ……
Bove was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who told him he had suddenly become "ineligible" to enter the U.S. because of his prosecution for “moral crimes” and was swiftly put back on a plane to France.
Oh good, it was nothing to do with attacking MacDonald’s then! And before you ask……. Yes there is now a McDonalds in Millau. Still, good point made.

As mentioned earlier this is the main area in France for paragliding.
As we arrived at the park, we glanced up, and saw many paragliders drifting lazily over the surrounding hills and town. It looked like fun.
Graeme’s birthday was coming up soon, which
Happy BirthdayHappy BirthdayHappy Birthday

There he goes.....
we had decided to ignore. After all, what can you get the man who is living his dream? (well, until the money runs out)
But the sight of these paragliders set me thinking. Having spent almost 2 years together what better way to celebrate someone’s birthday than to arrange for him to jump off a cliff?
It also crossed my mind it might be quite amusing to book Graeme the acrobatic flight instead of the ordinary one. But on reflection thought it probably prudent not to upset, kill or maim the person who has it in his power to drive my home away into the distance, leaving me behind on the roadside. So a straightforward flight it was to be.
Never one to be left out, I went too.

You should try it sometime, it was a great experience, and it’s quite relaxing. I don’t know if it was so good for the instructor though as the other guy we went with was sick, 5 times, hopefully not as he glided over our rig!

Our camp site here had Wi-Fi so instead of our usual sightseeing, we spent several days catching up with boring ”life stuff” (and Blog
Hiding a busHiding a busHiding a bus

Other places to hide.
writing). Whilst sitting here, for some reason we decided a party might be called for after all, and sent out a few e-mails to see if anyone was interested…………… so, see about 50 of you in July then! We had to stay another day in order to send out replies.
Eventually we dragged ourselves away from this very pleasant place, and continued through the beautiful Massif Central towards Beaune, where we hoped to stay in Mike and Anne-Marie’s front garden!

PS Some info to Cheer our American Friends up. Cost of Diesel Fuel per Ltr
US/ 41p, Spain /66p, France / 79p, UK / 96p.
N.B. £1 = €1.47. $1= 0 .75€. £1 = $1.97

PPS It worked, there’s a rumour we now have a kitchen………….& maybe even a (Spanish ) buyer !!!!!


9th June 2007

Ha ha haha hhahs rotfl
Moira you have done it again...taken the mundane and made it perfectly hysterical...thank you for today's giggles.... Now, since your house in Spain is for sale, I know a great pyramid that is for sale next to some really nice folks who have started building a house...I bet my crew could have you a house with a kitchen and many fewer outlets built in 6 months....and there is someone here to supervise it...I will just place a chair atop the pyramid and I can direct to both sides...whilst holding a tall cold lemondade....
10th June 2007

ha ha haha hhahs rotfl
Tempting, tempting.......... but remember it is Spain. Still no harm in getting the chair out!

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