Week 501

Sunday, 29th July, 2018

We were told that we would get rain overnight but didn’t believe it. Woke up to rain. Unbelievable! Yesterday, I cut and fed the lawn. This morning, the weather watered it in for me. Be interesting how long it takes for the grass to resume its green and luscious look.

The hydrangeas we planted at the front door seem delighted with the water. Lots of organisations in our area have events planned for today and they are definitely not pleased to see the break in the weather.

We went out for the 10.00 am opening of Tesco. As we walked round, Pauline remarked on the dull lighting over the fruit and vegetables. When we got to the check-out, we realised why. This Tesco doesn’t open until 11.00 am on a Sunday. Archaic law. It will have to change!

The day has remained damp/rejuvenating throughout. I look forward to my grass updating very soon. We will restart our gym routine tomorrow. We have five weeks until we fly to Greece and I am determined to work hard to earn that indulgence.

Monday, 30th July, 2018

Liz & Caroline

Lovely to wake up to rain again this morning. Quite warm and we reached 25C/77F although fairly cloudy for most of the day. We are expected to rise to 31C/90F by the end of the week with high humidity. I will keep watering the lawns. They are showing real signs of regeneration already.

It has been a day of reminiscences which never goes well with me. I was opening a box file in our office and this photo fell out. It pictures my two, youngest sisters, Elizabeth (now 60  and Caroline (now 56). Of course, they live in my head with this image because I left home shortly after this to go to college. My first foray into tertiary education was to take up a teacher training place at the Anglican, all-women’s College in Ripon, North Yorkshire. As a (nominal) Roman Catholic male, I couldn’t have asked for better. I was one of 20 men in college of 600 women. Religion was suddenly irrelevant to almost everyone.

Today, those members of the ‘lonely’ 20 men were posting reminiscences of their of their own. I, embarrassingly, featured in a number. One recorded our production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in which I played the Button-Moulder. I didn’t enjoy it. I am not comfortable on stage or, indeed, in a theatre but it was a requirement of subsid. Drama. I also wrote my own 15 mins sketch called ‘Sentimentality’ which bombed and was not revived. Thank goodness.

Went to the gym for the first time in over 6 weeks and did a full work out. Felt good and we really enjoyed it. We have maintained our fitness while abroad by doing plenty of walking and swimming. Now we aim to move on and extend our routines. I have to start doing some sit-ups to strengthen my stomach muscles.

Tuesday, 31st July, 2018

July is ending with another beautiful day. I think we had quite heavy rain over night -certainly, the lawns were cheering – but this morning is clear blue sky and lots of lovely sunshine. We have only reached 22C/70 F but it has felt delightful. We did a second, full workout at the gym but, at last, I got round to giving the car an inside/outside valet for the first time since we returned from France a week ago.

Since getting back from our travels,  I have switched our dual fuel power supply from BG …. to BG but on a new and improved fixed tariff. I’ve also booked an engineer to install Hive Active Heating which will connect our boiler controls to our broadband hub and allow us to control it using apps on our smart phones and our iPads.

This system is really just a digital control backbone which can ultimately be expanded to add controlled electrical sockets and light bulbs allowing remote control of many electrical items as well as delivering surveillance video stream to us across the net. Really appeals to a geek like me.

With our bank account, we get ‘free’ annual travel insurance, mobile phone insurance and unlimited entry to and services of airport lounges across the world. Having a pre-existing health condition – atrial fibrillation – I have to pay a top-up premium. Pauline renewed our cover this morning for the next twelve months and it hadn’t gone up at all.

Wednesday, 1st August, 2018

Happy August to all readers – I almost forgot. Where am I on the Dementia Gradient?

We live within walking distance of the sea but rarely go down there. Every time we visit Worthing town, we are surprised that it is on the beach. Today, we had some things to look for – Aftershave for me, Trainers for Pauline etc. – and we drove down the seafront road, past the pier and to the multi-storey carpark where we go right up to the top for the views.

View from a Carpark.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning, warm, sunny and bright, reaching 22C/70F. For Worthing, it was open market day but the town didn’t feel particularly busy as a French market day would. On the beach edge there was a tawdry fair ground although not many takers for rides at 10.00 am.. Purchases made, we headed home and then did another, full exercise session. We are really enjoying getting back into this routine and celebrating the fact that we haven’t lost any of our fitness over the 6 weeks away.

Thursday, 2nd August, 2018

Woke to another wonderfully clear and sunny blue sky at 6.30 am. Actually, we remarked on the early darkness last night. It seemed to be coming earlier in spite of a completely clear and starry sky. I know we are past the tipping point but to be noticing shorter days already is a bit of a shock.

My Mother would have been 95 this month and my Father would have been 103 in October. Going through their mementos, I found a leather folder of honeymoon records. They married nearly 70 years ago and honeymooned in the Cotswolds. Mum had saved for all those years after Dad’s death in 1965, pictures of their honeymoon accommodation and the receipts for everything from their rooms to the meals and even room service. One, particular hotel stood out for me – The Lygon Arms Hotel in the Cotswolds situated between Banbury, Worcester and Cheltenham. Mum always talked highly of her love of the Cotswolds although I’m not aware she ever went back.

The Lygon Arms – Cotswolds

This morning, I received an email from a company called Chic Retreats offering three nights of absolute luxury in a Cotswold hotel called The Lygon Arms. It’s not somewhere that I would choose to stay. I really do prefer modern over ancient. Obviously, it was to Mum’s taste and had very special meaning for her.

They were only staying there for two days en route to The Fortfield Hotel in Sidmouth – a hotel which was very grand but burned down a couple of years ago. Unusually, I have Mum’s record of their stay in The Lygon Arms with all the charges they paid. They were there for the 22nd & 23rd April, 1950. I was born on 6th April, 1951 so one pre-conception is shattered.

Friday, 3rd August, 2018

Absolutely gorgeous day of blue sky and strong sunshine which peaked at 30C/86F. We walked down into the village to take a parcel to the Post Office. It is an easy and enjoyable walk from our house which takes about 10 mins..

We are always shocked to find that our village is on the ‘tourist track’ and, as we walked through the village centre this morning, tourists were having their breakfast outside the The Lamb and the sunshine underlined the ‘holiday’ character of the village. Our coast is renowned for its reputation as the sunniest in UK and people are prepared to pay for that on their holidays.

I am continuing to irrigate the lawns to bring them back from the brink of five weeks baking hot neglect. That was the order of the rest of the Morning while watching the Test Match. Off to the Health Club at lunchtime for a 2 hr session. The indoor pool is being drained for restorative work so the outdoor pool is like Blackpool at this time of the year.

We drove home to griddle (French), swordfish steaks in the garden. We dressed them with olive oil and lemon and ate them with salad. I was thinking this morning that, without any conscious intent, I hardly ever eat red meat. A popular choice during our time in France was a pate of white fish and crab. As soon as we got home, we made our own with cod and a dressed crab. Tomorrow, we will go down to the Fishermen’s Shed to buy two, fresh crabs to make some more. I love it.

Saturday, 4th August, 2018

After a night in which the temperature didn’t fall below 19C/66F, the morning opened a little hazier than normal but soon reached 24C/75F and is expected to peak at 28C/82F this afternoon. We went out early to walk by the seaside and buy a couple of crabs from the fisherman’s shed. Families were already arriving and setting out their pitches on the beach. Many looked as if they were there for the day with chairs, tables, umbrellas and cool boxes. Children were charging down into the sea with gay abandon that only the young can exhibit.

Littlehampton Crabs – 2 for £16.00/€18.00

Instead of destroying the kitchen, we will take all the meat out of these crabs outside in the garden where we can afford to make a mess. It will be quite enjoyable to work on them in the sunshine.

Week 500

Sunday, 22nd July, 2018

Week 500. You have to admit, it demonstrates perseverance/obduracy at the very least. I was pondering on this tangentially this morning. I do tend to commit myself to things. Since 1984, I have bought Honda cars. I have been an IHG member for many years and collected many ‘points’ and ‘free’ hotel rooms over that time. I became hooked on Greece, in general, and Sifnos, in particular, over a period of 35 years. Currently, we have been using hotels from the Accor Group and it has been causing me a bit of angst and a sense of betrayal. I’ve been trying to analyse what it is about my character that leads me into this enjoyment of continuity.

I would like to say that I had the answer but I don’t. I certainly don’t give in easily. If I’m in a fight over something, I will not stop until I’ve won or it is absolutely obvious that I can’t. I am incredibly loyal to people who gain my trust but cut them dead immediately if they betray me. The Blog began to help me record my life and shore up my memories for the final 20/30/40 years (perm any number) and has become a friend in itself. I feel totally committed to it. It will be lovely (for me at least) to begin Week 1000 in 2028 when I am 77 years old and, who knows, Week 2000 in 2048 when I am 97 although I won’t be holding my breath even if I’ve still got some.

Le soleil se lève sur le lac asséché ce matin.

This morning, we woke up in our room in the Novotel (Accor Group) Limoge Le Lac – which was still minus Le Lac this morning. We had a wonderful breakfast, returned to our room to download our copies of The Sunday Times and prepare for our journey to Orléans. We loved the Limoges hotel and were reluctant to leave it but we’d booked ahead for the next three nights so couldn’t do anything other than leave.

Betrayal but Irresistible!

Our journey to Orléans on this gorgeous, warm and sunny morning was really enjoyable. Just 2.25 hrs of smooth and quite quiet motorway through almost totally empty countryside. Our French hotels are so civilised and check-in time is midday which suits us well. We arrived at our Mercure (Accor Group) Hotel but not before being pushed all around the city centre by road works and diversions that threw our sat.nav. into paroxysms of despair.

We arrived, were provided keys for our room which I insist must be at or near the top so it is quiet with good views. A caveat to that is the availability of a lift and I have slightly questioned the principle after Grenfell. However, that specification is in my membership account ‘preferences’ and I haven’t got round to changing them. Eating a hotel Breakfast in Limoges has left us absolutely podged for the day so we didn’t book the restaurant. We have rested with our newspapers, a glass of white wine and some gorgeous pistachio nuts. We need rest because, tomorrow, we will ‘do’ Orléans.

Monday, 23rd July, 2018

Woke up in a different hotel room and had to find the toilet in the dark. In the previous, Limoges hotel, the bathroom and toilet were separate. I had just learnt that and we moved on. This early morning, I nearly ended up stark naked in the corridor.

Dignity saved for now, we made tea and listened to BBC Radio 4 Today. Before going down to Breakfast, I got dressed. Once bitten ….Hotel Breakfast is judged by the quality of the scrambled eggs and this hotel passed the test reasonably well. Freshly squeezed orange juice is my other test and here it was passed with flying colours. Can’t be doing with hotels that provide ‘long life’ juice from packets/tins.

We ate our breakfast by the side of the pool in lovely sunshine. There were three GB cars in the carpark and near to our table was a family of parents and two, under-fives who were learning all the words of breakfast items in French. They hardly knew them in English. At least Nutella didn’t over reach them. At my age, drinking orange juice, tea and coffee at breakfast has to be followed by a period of rest and renewal before I can venture in to the world inspite of France’s reputation for easy access to public toilets. It gives me an excuse to read my newspaper in peace before setting out to explore the town and its shops.

Would you believe it. Monday is half day opening in Orléans and the shops don’t open until 2.00 pm. We walked in 31C/90F temperatures …. to look at the cathedral. Actually, it is magnificent and infuriating in equal measure. It’s magnificence is infuriating because, when one thinks of the lives consumed in the incredible effort to build that structure and the dwellings they must have lived in set against the cathedral’s edifice, the central futility of the project is laid bare. It is for ‘ruin-bibbers’, as Philip Larkin described us, to walk round on a sunny morning before the shops open and little else.

Tuesday, 24th July, 2018

Sunrise over the cathedral & roofs of Orléans.

Up early. We have a 4.5 hr drive to Coquelles this morning. We are going to endeavour to stay on the Paris ring road and avoid the centre of the city this time. I’ve seen enough of the Arc de Triomphe for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been away or how much we’ve enjoyed ourselves, by this stage, we really look forward to getting home. We have one night in Coquelles and then some shopping to do in the hypermarkets of Calais before we go through the Tunnel tomorrow.

Absolutely delightful drive avoiding the Parisian tourist sights but going close to Arras, the home town of a boyhood friend of mine from Grammar School. No problems. No incidents. Smooth driving on clean, clear motorway. As we drove into the grounds of our hotel in Coquelles, the first thing that struck us was the colour of the grass. When we
stayed there 5 weeks ago, everything was green and vibrant. Today, the grass is a brown and dry mat. The temperature is 31C/89F and humid. Rather uncomfortable. We have a suite in the hotel. We use it so often that we even specify the number now.

We shopped for things and then returned to our suite and laid out a buffet of tasty bits – tomatoes, cucumber, Salmon Pâté, Scallop or Saint-Jacques Pâté, Serrano Ham and a bottle of red wine. We relaxed and read our newspapers, watched the UK news and breathed out. Tomorrow, we will do a weekly shop and then go through the tunnel and drive back to Sussex.

Wednesday, 25th July, 2018

When you’re on your way home, you just want to get on and get there. Well, that’ s how we are. Up at 6.00 am on a hot and sticky morning. Showers and down to breakfast. Nice scrambled egg but the orange juice is not freshly squeezed. It will be tomorrow! Coffee in our suite with the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme and then out to the hypermarket. No wine this time just groceries. Auchan had loins of swordfish (Espadon) and we bought 10, large steaks. We also put 16 duck breasts in our trolley. When we thought we could fit no more in our car’s fridge, we stopped.

It is school holidays and we thought the tunnel would be busy. It was quite the reverse. Perhaps people really are taking their holidays at home. We have never seen the Tunnel car park so quiet.

Our car began to think it was superior as it sat in splendid isolation. We listened to the radio and logged in to the Tunnel’s Wi-Fi while we waited for our train. By 1.00 pm (UK time) we were off and into Kent. The drive back was quiet and enjoyable. The temperature outside was 31C/90F but inside it was 17C/63F. That’s the sort of temperature I like to drive in. It keeps me alert.

Back home, we were shocked to find the lawn was brown. When we left it was a lush green. Fortunately, all our pot plants – herbs mainly – were fully grown. There is so much Basil that it will take Pauline most of tomorrow to make Pesto and freeze it. I had set the heating system for ‘Holiday Setting’ which is ‘frost free only’. Unfortunately, very early on in our absence, there was a local power cut and the heating reverted to default settings which meant that the water was kept hot throughout the five weeks we were away. It also reset the burglar alarm. Still, these are things I will consider and address for next time.

Thursday, 26th July, 2018

I was up at 6.oo am. I will be for a while because I am slow to move out of Central European Time. The watering system that I moved to the figs and olive trees has completely revived them so I am now on a non-stop campaign to bring the lawn back to health. At 6.30 am, I was turning on the watering system for a long day of treatment.

No breakfasts now – just freshly squeezed orange juice, tea and coffee. It’s not a problem. I did find breakfast difficult to eat and it made me feel lethargic for quite a part of the morning. Having my hair cut by my wife because it has really grown over the past five weeks. I’ve then got all sorts of jobs to catch up on. I’ve got investment accounts that need renewing/replacing. I have to update our power supply contracts which run out in a fortnight. I have to organise the new smartphones that EE are desperate to give me to keep our business.

We do everything finance-wise on line. While we’ve been away, using insecure Wi-Fi, I haven’t been able to access our accounts. This morning, Pauline is checking and bringing our bank and credit cards accounts up to date. The credit card is one long list of tolls paid and ‘non-sterling transactions’ to accompany them. Most of our spending was in euros to avoid these charges but, at the peage, a credit card is much easier and quicker.

French & Italian Peage. What Fun!

There is a pre-pay system which we may set up for our next, European drive.

The basil was so strongly grown over the past 5 weeks that we decided to capitalise on it immediately before it turned to seed. There is so much herb that Pauline needed a kilo of Parmigiano-Reggiano and of pine nuts before we could start. After a trip to the supermarket for pesto constituents, we harvested the sweet, Italian Basil plants and Pauline set to making the Pesto. I set the watering system up to slake the thirst of the front garden, the pot plants and then the back garden and, particularly, the lawns. I will have them back to their best before we fly to Athens in a few weeks time.

Friday, 27th July, 2018

A very warm and sticky night. If this sort of temperature becomes a feature of our climate, we are going to have to make changes – ceiling fans or air conditioning units in our bedrooms. The main problem is that we have bought a new-build property because of its most up to date insulation qualities. Our use of the central heating is kept to a minimum. However, those qualities are exactly the ones that militate against keeping it cool in the hot weather. Should have thought of that!

Crab fishing from Littlehampton Marina.

I was up at 6.15 am and had the sprinkler system on the lawn working flat out shortly afterwards. I left it on as we went out to shop at Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose. We also went to Littlehampton Marina to the fishermen’s shed to buy crab.

My wife went fishing for crabs.

Actually, we bought crab and sea bass. The crab will be mixed with cod loin and some thick yoghurt and herbs, which we bought in Tesco, to make a crab-flavoured, fish Pâté.

Tomorrow, we will make the next batch of Pesto and then the Basil will be fed and watered and persuaded to put on growth for at least one more cutting in mid-September after we come back from Greece. We will also harvest three pots of Oregano, two pots of Tarragon and the Chives. It’s going to be a busy Saturday.

Saturday, 28th July, 2018

The day has started off bright but fresher and breezy. We are around 22C/70F with a strengthening breeze that is bringing screaming gulls in from the shore. All around us, farmers are starting to move straw bales to winter stores and are completing their harvesting of grain. It is still only July. Farmers will all be going on holiday at this rate. It is harvest weekend for us too. Today, we made the second cutting of our herb pots with realistic prospect of at least one more to come.

My job was Oregano…
….. and Tarragon…
Pauline did the Thyme and made the Basil Pesto.

Today, we harvested huge amounts of sweet, Italian, big-leaved basil and small-leaved, Greek basil. Because of its fragile nature, it was immediately combined with pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and Parmigiano Reggiano to make the most wonderful Pesto you will ever taste. My wife is brilliant!

Of course, I don’t get to just observe. Today, as well as the Basil, we had to crop Oregano, Thyme, and Tarragon. The Dill, which we cut before we went away, has failed to regenerate for a second crop and the Marjoram has died completely. It was my job to cut and strip the Oregano and the Tarragon. It is a laborious and time-consuming activity and I was glad when it was over. In the meantime, Pauline was stripping the Thyme and cutting the Basil.

Although the lawns are very brown, I have watered them virtually non-stop since we got home on Wednesday. Today, I cut them and fed them. We are expecting some rain over night which will help to water the feed pellets in. I am hoping to get it back to luscious green within two weeks.

Week 499

Sunday, 15th July, 2018

The morning opened with claps of thunder but it soon gave way to hot sunshine and a temperature of 31C/89F. We were up at 6.15  am and out walking by 9.00 am. We tried a new route and found ourselves walking past a Pécharmant chateau. Chateau Terre Vieille or Old Land is a hidden establishment in idyllic countryside unhindered by modern life.

“Not sure why they put those pillars and gates there other than for show. If the gates were closed, which they probably never are, visitors could just walk around them.

Monday, 16th July, 2018

Woken up again by a thunder storm at 6.00 am. Apparently, they are a common corollary of the high, Summer temperatures round here. They hit phone services – both landline and mobile – plus power supplies. This morning, the power did go off for 5 mins but it soon returned and life moved on. Well, we boiled the kettle, put the radio on and downloaded our newspapers, updated our Twitter feeds, etc..

We went out for a walk around Bergerac. It has its own airport. It is a regional centre but it is just an overgrown village. We spent an hour exploring the backstreets. The French seemed to be suffering post-World Cup lethargy. Shops were opening very reluctantly. Traffic was light and parking easy. In these cities, I like to check out property shops and collect brochures to be read at leisure. Of course, I usually relate them to our Greek property owning experience. Today, I picked up an Anglophile, expat magazine.

It contains essential services provided by expats for expats. Particularly, I would have given my right arm for the following service advertised to those settling in the Dordogne. I did try to get Sky satellite feed in our Greek home. I even took my Sky box from Surrey to the house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible and we ended up settling for a Greek/Albanian feed which gave me Premier League football and BBC News but was still limited.

Having said all of that and even though we have loved our time here, the Dordogne would not be our choice for a foreign home. It is hard to put one’s finger on that decision but, ironically, it is a bit too parochial, a bit too pastoral and a bit too isolated for my taste as I move towards my 70s. The buildings honour the past and the standards of the past rather than meeting the exciting expectations of the modern and the future. This may well appeal to those who are old at heart but not to me.

I want modernity and the services of the modern world and value them above all else. The Dordogne and its culture seems to celebrate values that are not mine. Even the markets feature small scale, pastoral production of things that swerve the standards expected of such products produced on a national scale. One cannot imagine this process to be sustained in the long term. It harks back to a romantic view of an earlier age just as the architecture does. In spite of this, it will go.

Tuesday, 17th July, 2018

A lovely but slightly fresher morning of sun and cloud. We have five days left here until we move on. After more than three weeks setting out most mornings to explore new places, we can feel our enthusiasm moderating and a more ‘normal’ modus operandi asserting itself. This morning I am taking the rubbish bags down to the village, communal bins. We will buy fresh fish from the visiting fish ‘shop’ and we will do our 10,000 paces plus half hour swim. I have tested my own INR this morning and reported it to Worthing Hospital who will send back advice on medication levels for my anti-coagulant and the next testing date by the end of the day.

This is how I prefer to approach travel – not tourism but living somewhere else however temporarily. I like the process of researching, investigating, learning and installing the elements of my life wherever I am at that time. I still follow largely the same diet and exercise regime, follow the same internet and political news passions but set against a different backdrop. It was just so in Greece, the same here in the Dordogne and will be when I live my November in Tenerife. It actually gives me genuine pleasure pulling one life through another.

We set out for an early walk towards a village/town called Mouleydier. We walked for an hour each way in warm but not burning sunshine. It was quite delightful. We walked in bright sunshine and wooded shaded. After an hour’s walk past the most delightful but isolated, country properties, we arrived in Mouleydier – just another, interesting but ‘frozen in time’ village/town

Mouleydier Town Centre

En route, we passed one of these common acknowledgements the French put at the side of roads. This was a small, quite overgrown memorial to a 9 year old boy who died when the Germans entered and set fire to the village.

Our walk took us two hours in total by which time, I had completed my 10,000 paces quite easily but, as soon as we got back, we went straight to the pool and did a strenuous, half hour swim. It was quite delicious.

Talking about delicious. Today we had pre-boiled haricot vert (green French beans) that we bought from the village market and mixed in a fresh, tomato sauce cooked with garlic and dill. After having digested that and watched the Daily Politics, we went for another half hour swim. So, two hours walking and one hour swimming. Our reward was a meal of smoked salmon, tiger prawns and tomato salad. Absolutely wonderful. We followed it with yoghurt and fresh blackberries picked from around the grounds of the Gite.

At 8.30 this evening, the temperature is still 28C/83F. All our windows are thrown open to cool the gite. The temperature falls very slowly at night. I must admit, I didn’t realise this about the Dordogne. It certainly feels more Mediterranean than I imagined.

Wednesday, 18th July, 2018

Gloriously hot and sunny day which had hit 31C/89F by 11.00 am. We are in the 4th week of our time here in the Dordogne. This morning, we have done our lst, major shop at Intermarche. They have already latched on to our custom and we were able to use a loyalty voucher to reduce our bill by €9.61.

We leave on Sunday to drive to Orléans for a couple of nights and then on to Coquelles for a night before crossing to Folkestone on Wednesday. Here, in the Dordogne, Intermarche, holds sway but, back in northern France, Auchan and Carrefour are the dominant retailers so Intermarche will have to whistle.

Thursday, 19th July, 2018

First person to greet me this morning – after my gorgeous wife, of course – was my holiday buddy, Brian. OK, he is a snail and a snail in France but never be derogatory about snail’s pace. Brian moves like lightning. Well, Brian moves quite fast. Every morning, he is there to greet me on the front step. Every evening, he is there to wish me goodnight from the back step.

This morning is absolutely gorgeous with very strong, early sunshine from cloudless skies. We are forecast to be 33C/92F today so swimming and walking will be done relatively early so Pauline doesn’t shrivel up in the intense heat.

We are already preparing for our drive home although we don’t leave until Sunday and cross to UK on Wednesday. My job this morning is to examine two contracts that end and need to be renewed/replaced as soon as we get back to Sussex. Our dual fuel power provider contract finishes in a couple of weeks and I have virtually concluded that a new, fixed price contract with British Gas will provide me with the best, all round service for the next 15 months. I am going to also choose their offer of ‘Hive’, digital heating controls because I love innovation.

The other contract I have to resolve is our mobile phones which are complete the week after we return. We are entitled to ‘free’, new handsets and to renegotiate the terms of our plan. We expect to travel a lot in Europe over the next couple of years which the contract will cover so we like to have plenty of ‘data’ to take with us until that cross-border facility runs out if there is a transition period. Because of ‘old eyes’ we would both prefer a bigger screen and the camera is really well used now. I think I have decided on Huawei P20 Pro. It has 3 cameras including ‘zoom’ and ‘low light’ capabilities plus ‘facial’ and ‘fingerprint recognition’ unlocking. The contract is only £43.00/€48.22 per month although we will need two so £86.00/€96.44 per month. For that we each get 8Gb of data per month plus unlimited texts and calling minutes plus ‘wi-fi’ calling which is useful in our house. And, in two years, we will do it all again with a new handset. Keep you posted.

Friday, 20th July, 2018

A very warm and humid night which made sleeping uncomfortable. We have booked this Gite until Monday – 28 nights – but had already shortened that by adding an extra night on the way back in Orléans. Now we have truncated it by another day and booked a night in Limoges – the porcelain city – for Saturday night.









It splits the first leg of our return journey into two, relaxing, 2 hr. drives and assuages our feeling that we have largely exhausted this area for now. We are always like this anyway. Wherever we go and for however long – be it for 6 months or 6 days – we get itchy feet in anticipating the moving on. We recognise it in ourselves after all these years travelling and embrace our weaknesses.

Last night, we discussed the possibilities. I identified Limoges as a easy, en route possibility and searched Booking.com for hotels. I chose the 4* Novotel Limoges Le Lac. It has a pool, gym and good Wi-fi. The price for a ‘Superior Room’ with Breakfast is €177.00/£160.00 and the hotel is sited on the banks of Lake Uzurat. Check in & out by 12.00 pm. Ideal for one night. We will leave on Sunday for another 2 hr drive to Orléans and two nights there followed by a 4 hr drive to Coquelles on Tuesday.

Saturday, 21st July, 2018

Closed our Gite. Reclaimed our €200.00/£178.00 Deposit and set off for Limoges. It is a lovely, 2 hr drive on good motorway. Just two days ago, we had booked the 4* Novotel Limoges Le Lac. When we arrived at a really lovely hotel, we found the Lake…..completely dry. Not the weather like the UK but because work was being carried out on the ‘basin’.

View from the window of Room 436.

The only water was in the hotel’s pool which was too busy in this very warm weather for us to seriously swim. Anyway, we thought we would retreat to our hotel room and pamper ourselves with a bottle of wine and some pistachio nuts. I know, we really go for it when we let go!

How it should have looked.

We will settle back and listen to the BBC 1.00 pm News on Radio 4. It is wonderful now that Hotels across Europe realise that wifi provision is as essential and expected as bathrooms. Until recently, hotels thought they could charge for the ‘privilege’. Then they thought they would provide ‘free access’ to an impossibly slow service and charge for a provision that was actually useable. It soon became apparent that they were charging for the air their customers breathe. Now, they accept that good, reliable and useable wifi access is a taken-for-granted facility which defines their establishment. I would never return to a hotel where my internet access was compromised.

In this hotel, I am downloading pictures from my phone and editing and updating my Blog while receiving BBC Radio 4 simultaneously. I would expect nothing less.

Week 498

Sunday, 8th July, 2018

What a gorgeous day in the Dordogne. How many more times can I say that over this month? We went out early before the temperature rose from 26C/79F to 32C/90F. We drove about 5 km to the village/town of Creysse – not to be confused with Cressy – which has a population of 1800 people.

It is right on the banks of the Dordogne and sleepy, green and beautiful. We walked along the river path in the shade of the trees fringing the river bank. Lots of  20ft fig trees here.

The walk was delicious at 9,00 am and, after an hour, we resisted the Boulangerie and drove back to the gite to watch Marr and then enjoy a vigorous 30 mins swim in the pool. We finished just in time to watch The Sunday Politics. It is so lovely to watch the Brextremists squirm and spit because they begin to realise that the best they can expect is BINO (Brexit in Name Only). The Left are moving towards a second vote and potential abandonment of the whole, sorry nonsense. I predicted it but we will continue to hold our breath. For those who think this is all obsessive nonsense – wait to see the effects of a full on Brexit. You will regret being a bystander!

Monday, 9th July, 2018

As the very warm and sunny weather continues, we are beginning to question the schedule we are pushing ourselves through. Even so, we went on a 40 km drive today through the bustling and busy town of Sarlat and cross country to the beautiful, Thirteenth Century, Bastide village of Domme.

Looking down from the ramparts across the Dordogne.

We parked in the carpark at the bottom of hill and got on the miniature train to be taken up to the village. We had a recorded commentary in multiple languages to listen to on the way up which was quite useful.

Domme village

The village itself was beautiful and disappointing in equal measure – beautiful because so many of the original, 700 year old buildings are still standing but disappointing because they have been turned into a tourist theme park.Pécharmant

We took the train back down and drove back to our gite where we swam the dust of the day off in the cool and crystal clear water. Pauline griddled salmon with pesto outside and we ate it with salad. We are tired tonight and are resolved to do much less tomorrow. It is the England match tomorrow and we need to do a shop. Other than that, we will relax, walk, swim and read.

Tuesday, 10th July, 2018

An easier day. Didn’t get up until 7.00 am. Wonderful fresh orange juice, tea and coffee and then out to the mobile fish trailer that comes to the village on Tuesday mornings. We came away having spent €67.00/£59.34 on sword fish steaks, tuna steaks and a side of salmon – enough to give us 4 griddled meals. On to Intermarche for other shopping like duck breasts and chicken and then back for a long swim. With the temperature settling around 30C/86F, we set off for a long walk along the local vineyards. They are vines of the  Pécharmant appellation, a local red wine.

The fields are still green after little rain and under baking sun. The air was alive with the astounding din of unseen choruses of cicadas. At least this evening would be relaxing with a chilled bottle of Pécharmant and a football match in which I am neutral.

Wednesday, 11th July, 2018

A second quiet day at the Gite. We did an early morning swim and a late afternoon swim which, together, amounted to 1.5 kms. We were both shattered after that.

The grounds of this Gite are absolutely delightful. Plum, Fig and Apple trees are interspersed with Blackberry bushes and lots of flowering shrubs. It is so green in direct contrast to our Greek property which we left exactly 4 years ago today.

We are driving over on Friday to visit my cousin, Sue, who has bought, renovated and now entertains guests in a large, village house in the village of Salles- Lavallete. I haven’t seen her for 10 years since Mum’s funeral. It will be fun to catch up.

Thursday, 12th July, 2018

Another lovely, hot and laid-back day. We went out to view a small, Bastide town called Villeréal. Another medieval masterpiece living and breathing in the 21st Century. I’m not sure how many more of these I can take. I certainly couldn’t live in one.

Town Square – Villeréal

They are interesting, some beautiful like the one today which had been seamlessly integrated into modern life but one just knows that living standards are heavily compromised by the buildings and infrastructure. Power, water supply, sewerage disposal, roads, parking all are adjuncts to the structures of 800 years ago. I think the featured cars are fairly modern.

We drove back through fields and fields of sunflowers. They have obviously been staggered sown and are now at various stages of development. I thought I’d take the cliche shot but the sun refused to move round and so did the flowers.

Back at the gite, we did a hard, 30 mins swim, did an hour long walk around the vineyards and then returned for a second swim before griddling swordfish steaks and ate them with salad. It was a truly wonderful meal. I have a feeling we will sleep tonight.

Friday, 13th July, 2018

If you were superstitious, you would have been wary this morning. We are not and weren’t. We did the 50 mile trip through the centres of Bergerac and Ribérac to visit my cousin’s B&B plus Gite in Salles-Lavalette.

Cousin Sue & (Australian) husband, Phi Tuffin.

The journey was fine and we stopped in Ribérac town to walk the market en route to our destination. It was typically bustling and colourful.

Ribérac Market.

Sue & Phil’s house is in a very relaxed village which would lull anyone to sleep. They are lovely people who also rent out bikes to cyclists to explore this wonderful landscape. They are still waiting for Ruth & Kevan to drop in.

Saturday, 14th July, 2018

View from a Gite.

Last night was hot and humid with a fiery sky. Even so, we were tired after a three hour drive and slept like logs. This morning, we have woken up still rather jaded and, as the sun and temperature rise, we have decided to stay at base and relax. Well, not exactly relax because we’ve done a hard swim and will complete our 10,000 paces with a good walk later but we will not need the car today.

View from a Gite.

Smoked Salmon Salad for lunch today plus Wimbledon and the England match. Life could be so much harder!

Week 497

Sunday, 1st July, 2018

Happy July from the sweltering Dordogne.









A hot and humid night and we were up early – 6.30 am – to greet the sunrise. Freshly squeezed orange juice followed by Yorkshire Tea and a cup of coffee get me started for the day. We are going to another of those, essentially, medieval towns (villages) which has a big, all-encompassing open market on a Sunday.

The place is called Issigeac which the locals seem to pronounce EasyJack. It is only 20 mins drive away although we must have past at least 10 different wine estates en route. One can become rather blasé about the scenery after a while because it is so similar just as the little settlements are. We felt the same about Italian/Tuscan towns. I suppose, you could say the same about most, British towns.

Although we were there and parked well before 9.00 am, the market was already busy and vibrant. We walked through the first street and said to each other, “We’ll have some of those and … those and those. The most wonderful and interestingly huge tomatoes – red, orange, yellow, purple – maybe about ten, different types. Shallots, garlic and onions in the green, newly pulled stage. A little, old lady was selling her own eggs from her small holding and had pictures of her hens. I asked their names but she didn’t understand. Even so, we bought half a dozen. We also bought local strawberries (gorgeously sweet) and raspberries,  pickled garlic and delicious, green olives.

We drove back to watch the Sunday Politics show and for a swim in the pool as the temperature ramped up again. I did some jogging round the grounds to get my paces up. We cooked and ate large, shelled prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce with langoustines cooked in garlic oil. It was accompanied by griddled slices of cauliflower with lemon sauce. Absolutely delicious! Later, we went for a long walk in the countryside before watching some football.

Monday, 2nd July, 2018

Fantastic thunder and lightning show last night. Really spectacular sheet and forked lightning. It drifted away around 11.30 pm and we went to bed. I always go straight out like a light – the sleep of the just. When I woke at 6.00 am, Pauline told me she had been awake and walking around half the night because the storm had returned with even greater intensity and heavier rain. I had snored through it all. Well rested this morning, we had a problem with the internet. The hub had been knocked out by the storm.

We went out to Sainte-Alvere, about 20km away and, once again, we had chosen market day. How France manages to sustain so many small scale producers can only be through these local outlets. Even so, it must be fairly precarious. Our problem is that we seem to have been to a different market each day and can’t physically store or eat any more food however special it is.

Today we are going take it a bit easier although we will fit in two, half hour swims and a walk. We are griddling chicken thighs with salad for our meal and looking forward to the football after last nights penalty shoot-outs.

Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018

Hot and very humid this morning. In fact, our phones reported 100% humidity. We went down to our local market for fish – sword fish steaks – and artisan bread for Pauline. Back to the gite for coffee and then out on  20km drive to Perigueux. Interesting city particularly if you like cathedrals which are not my thing. Needless to say, the traffic was a Perigordian knot of its own and we didn’t stay long.

Everywhere on the drive back was beautiful. Farms to the left of us vineyards to the right all punctuated by restaurants. Don’t make me eat any more!

Back at the gite, coffee and the newspapers and then a 30 mins swim in the pool. My job then was to make a tomato sauce with huge purple and yellow beefsteak tomatoes plus a whole bulb of garlic, a massive, green shallot and some olive oil, white wine and a large bunch of dill (aneth). With these sort of ingredients, I am a genius. This sauce will be matured for use tomorrow with langoustines.

Oh, it all feels so indulgent. If we were having a holiday from a busy and pressured job, we would feel totally deserving. But we’re not. We are permanently on holiday and just moving home to the Dordogne for a while. As such, this whole experience feels incredibly fortunate. After all, we may never do it again.

Wednesday, 4th July

A quieter day today. No major excursions if you don’t count driving out to the local bottle-bank. Actually, it was very lucrative. We posted 4 plastic water bottles into the container and were given a couple of cents token to spend at Intermarche. Now what will I spend it on? Maybe a bottle of Bergerac wine. I think I’ll need to drink a lot more bottled water before I can afford that.p

Just going out for a long walk in the local countryside followed by a strong swim which will earn me the right to watch 90 mins of Prime Ministers Questions. We may go mad today and eat red meat for the first time I can remember for months. Griddled filet steak looks a possibility with shallots and mushrooms. That sounds good enough to merit a long walk.

Actually, the early evening brought a violent thunderstorm with lots of thunder claps and strong rain. The power went off just after we had washed up from our meal and made coffee. We thought it would last a few minutes. After two hours, life was becoming a bit tedious. After four hours, I was searching the boot of our car for a torch. I had one but had never used it and the batteries were corroded and useless. As the light faded to dark, the power came back on ….. and immediately went off again. Fortunately, the second coming stayed and I made coffee and turned on the television news. Bliss! Amazingly useful stuff, electricity!

Thursday, 5th July, 2018

Another lovely day although slightly cooler. By late afternoon, we had peaked at 26F/79F. We went out for a tour this morning. We intended to start with a market in Lalinde village. As we approached it and looked for parking spaces which were at a premium because of the event, the skies opened and rain poured down.

We decided not to stay but drive on to our second destination – Limeuil which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère which feature picturesque viaducts in the village.

Last of the Summer Wine.

Limeuil itself is a delightful hamlet of potters and artists and others exploiting the water. Down on the banks at the confluence of the two rivers, a canoe school was set up and waiting for customers. Rising up above the river banks, old, honey stone buildings edged narrow streets which climbed the steep hills – defences against flooding. It reminded us of Holmfirth with sunshine. We did a long and tiring climb to the top past umpteen pottery and art shops – mostly naieve work which could capture the tourist – and restaurants which we had to struggle harder to resist.

We drove back in lovely sunshine and stopped in Lalinde where the market stalls were just packing up. There was a lot of crushed ice on the road a strong smell of fish. On to the gite and a strong swim in the pool. I was exhausted at the end of it. We cooked langoustines in tomato, dill and garlic sauce and ate it with griddled cauliflower and red pepper. Lovely day. These are experiences to be stored in the memory banks – dementia willing!

As we drank coffee, our attention was drawn to the quiet, rural lane that we can see over the fields from our kitchen. Initially, we noticed a build up of traffic. Next, a fire engine and an ambulance arrived followed by a couple of police cars. You could not find a quieter or more isolated lane but traffic does drive much faster than the 90kph/56mph limit and there had been a downpour. Big incident for a little place. Everything has its context.

Friday, 6th July, 2018

Another really enjoyable day. Humid and ‘close’ but inconsistently sunny. We did our weekend shop but indulged ourselves with walks around Carrefour, Netto and Intermarche. We also looked round Brico (B&Q equivalent) which had house and garden hardware. Recently, we visited the market in Eymet. Today, as we walked round Netto, we noticed a jar of simple pâté de campagne made by 4th generation family producers in Eymet. That became our lunch and it was absolutely delicious.

The morning produced 7,000 paces and we returned to have a strong swim in the pool before lunch. Now we are reading our newspapers before we go for a walk and return to watch World Cup matches.p

Our main meal today will be brochettes of duck breast, marinated in lemon and garlic and then griddled. As usual, we will eat it with a simple salad. While we relax for the rest of the day, we will spend the evening researching tomorrow’s trip.

Saturday, 7th July, 2018

Early morning in the heart of the Dordogne.

Up at 6.00 am to watch the sunrise out of the early morning mist around our gite. The long grass has nets of mist/condensation blanketing it but soon to be burnt off. We are going out to (another) medieval village/town. This time we will visit Monpazier about 40 mins drive away. Of course we have to be back for 4.00 pm for a particular event.

Our trip out was an absolute joy. In baking sun, we entered the cool shade of this medieval town. It is hard to believe that people still live, move and have their being in this ancient place. It is billed as ‘the most beautiful town in France’ and who could argue with that sobriquet?

Astonishing constructions for covered walk ways from 700 years ago. Cool, dark and protected from the weather.

We spent a lovely morning exploring the past in the present and then drove back via Beaumont du Perigord which turned out to be a ‘mini-me’. one becomes rather blasé after a while.

Back at the gite, we had a strong, 30 mins swim and then went out for an hour’s walk through the woods as the cicada orchestra almost deafened us with its enthusiasm. Back from our walk, we were in time to watch England beat a disappointing Sweden 2-0. After showers, we griddled swordfish steaks outside and ate them with salad and an ice cold bottle of Bergerac Sauvignon. What a lovely day. We say that so often these days that we realise how lucky we are. It is after 8.00 pm (CET) but still 32C/90F. It’s going to be a sticky night.