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Europe » France » Midi-Pyrénées » Albi
August 13th 2019
Published: August 13th 2019
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And off to France we go. First stop is Eze Village where we were staying for the night. Quick turnaround then a short walk up the hill to Eze itself a medieval village perched on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean. The ancient fortified village still has the ruins of its 12th-century castle at the top as well as the Jardin Exotique ( which we visited the next morning before the coachloads came in). Well worth a walk round and from the top there is a great view of the coast.

Back to our arrival day. After wandering round the town and popping into various galleries and shops we went back to Chateau Eze a very nice hotel with a bar & breathtaking views. There we started chatting to a young couple from Dallas. His name was Aziz but unfortunately I don’t recall hearing her name. They were over with a larger wedding party and had managed to get away for the day before heading on to the Lebanon in the morning. We hit it off immediately and ended up staying much longer than we expected. As they left to head back they generously paid our bar bill without telling us. A very nice afternoon and a lovely couple.

The next day after walking the town and the gardens we went off aiming for Aix-en-Provence searching for fields of sunflowers and Lavender at specific points along the way. Unfortunately they were either not ready or too far gone for decent photographs so not the perfect journey for Sue.

We did however come across a small town as we were getting hungry and while trying to park up came across a small railway station with a bar and restaurant. The food was excellent and cheap a great combination.

Finally we hit Aix-en-Provence. A large town renowned for its numerous fountains and as we found out, expensive beer.

We came across an umbrella installation which had hundreds of multi coloured umbrellas hanging waiting for multiple Mary poppins to jump up and catch them. Around the corner there was a DJ playing salsa music and a crowd dancing the night away for free. Great atmosphere.

The following morning we visited the Biblioteque which had giant books outside and a Museum Linked to the Guggenheim. While Sue did that bit I went to the Bookshop with a cafe next door and thoroughly enjoyed it.

And then off towards Carpentras to meet old friends from Bracknell - Ian and Linda. On the way we stopped at Chateau La Coste vineyard which also housed 34 large sculptures through the vineyard and 2 exhibitions one by a Japanese artist Taino Karofa and the other by renowned photographer Don McCullin. Lovely place but unfortunately we didn’t have time to see all the sculptures.

A little while later we arrived in Aubignon at Ian and Linda’s. We had had a few a New Years there with the children and it all brought back fond memories. Tom their eldest lad was also there on the first night and it was great to see him and catch up on how everyone was doing.

We had a very relaxed couple of days with the odd bit of exercise - a walk in the rain on the Saturday and a shortish run for me and Linda on the Sunday.

Then lunch On the Sunday at a newish bistro in a former railway station alongside a new tarmac walkway and cycle path which will eventual meet the coast - great idea and enjoyable lunch. We had a great weekend and while it had been 10 years since we had met up it felt like yesterday.

After saying our goodbyes we then drove to Arles which was hosting a Photography festival https://www.rencontres-arles.com/ which we spent a couple of days wandering around - I particularly enjoyed the VR exhibition which had about 30 different immersive experiences including

‘Accused’ featuring the trial of Walter Sisulu and ‘Ayahuasca a Kosmik Journey’.

The ‘Unretouched Women’ and the British homes in the 70’s were really strong exhibitions but there were so many you have to check out the website - What also got me was how they made good use of old warehouses and churches for the exhibition turning them into magnificent spaces to show art.

if you have the time and can get there before end September it’s worth spending a couple of days here - plus it’s a lovely town.

From there to Albi a town I had never heard of but it was on the way to Bordeaux. The AirBNB was exceptional with a view for breakfast looking out to the Cathedral. The cathedral itself is the tallest brick built cathedral in the world.

When we walked into the town on the Tuesday evening the centre square near the cathedral was buzzing with food and drink stalls all round and musicians walking amongst the crowds. A beautiful sunny evening with good food, cheap beer and a lovely atmosphere - and apparently it happens every Tuesday! That’s the day to visit folks.

Next morning we went back into Albi and wandered round the cathedral then went to the Toulouse Lautrec museum http://musee-toulouse-lautrec.com both enjoyable and interesting. Then a wander round the rest of Albi before shooting off to Bordeaux for the night.

We arrived with about 90 minutes to visit the Cite du Vin a modern wine complex showing the history of wines, the areas of the world they grow, the importance of Bordeaux and of course a taste on the top floor looking out across the river to the city.

A bit overpriced but it was interesting. After a bite to eat locally we decided that we didn’t have enough time to do Bordeaux justice so didn’t bother going into the city centre.

After getting up to rain at the crack of 11! We set off to La Rochelle (and had a wander round the port before ending up in Niort for our next housesit - in a Chateau or rather in the Gite!

Owned by a lovely couple Sue and Simon ( from Haslemere), they were off to Goodwood for a few days and needed someone to look after 2 dogs and 2 cats.

The cats broadly looked after themselves and the dogs, Poppy and Teddy were a joy to look after (once you got to know Poppy that is). Both were rescue dogs and were now clearly in a better place.

We had a quiet time around the Chateau with the animals but went into Niort for the afternoon on the Saturday. A nice french town, we had a good wander round before heading back to feed the dogs.

Unfortunately Sue’s father had gone into hospital a day or two earlier and suffered a few post op problems so Sue decided to fly back on the Sunday. We fed the dogs in the morning and I took Sue to Nantes, then I went back to the housesit. Apparently she had the journey from hell encompassing passport control fiasco, delayed flight, screaming baby all the way to Manchester and then cancelled trains. Didn’t need that on top of everything else.

Good news is that a few days later Eric is responding better but Sue won’t be coming out again till the 17th when I meet her in Porto.

Fortunately for me Sue and Simon very kindly allowed me to stay in an extra couple of days and then they set off again this time for New York.

While at the Chateau I helped Simon a little with loading and unloading rubbish onto a trailer for the tip, moving 80 packages of tiles each weighing 25 kilos and moving gym equipment around in the stables before the painters came in.

I even managed to get a run in while I was there.

The Marian Poitevin National Park is relatively close by so I also visited a couple of towns and the Royal abbey of Nieul Sur L’Autise.

My penultimate day with the dogs on my own saw me heading into La Richelle to meet up with old neighbours from Olney, Wendy and Freddie. Freddie’s parents live in La Rochelle and they were over for a holiday. Great to see them both and walk round the town. It’s a great place to go and take in the sights and the markets before lunch. And then all too quickly I had to get back to feed the dogs.

Final day at the Chateau and after sorting the dogs food, washing and cleaning I was off to Limoges. Or rather Bostrichard where my cousin Sean lives.

Managed to get there early evening and meet Sean and Nadine with their two lads. It was great to meet up with them particularly as we went to Seattle when we started our journey and hadn’t realised his brother Eamonn was there till he rang me. Unfortunately we couldn’t meet in the time frame.

It was great to meet up and they looked after me royally.

Next morning I was off to Bilbao to meet up with Sue’s brother and his wife - more of which another day.


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