France

France

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  • Day4

    Woke really early ..the third time this sleep (and I'm not sure what day we are. It's Thursday in France and Spain which is Friday in NZ . I start the first day's walk up the Pyrenees about 9am Saturday in France which is about 9pm Saturday in NZ...when all nocturnal Kiwis wakeup so I should be fine)... and carried my gear down in the dark to assemble it before breakfast at 7:30 am and without waking my room mates. Weĺl, it did SOUND as if they were sleeping. 😊

    A "bonjour" to the night watchman and welcome time to charge batteries, the phone and power backup and my own. There is something oddly draining about foreignness. Not bad but different ...even thrilling in the sense of isolation or alien-ness....everything on full alert yet nothing to offer bar a smile...a sense of being indulged.

    As the morning commenced I hear the sound of male voices singing and reciting morning prayers in the chapel. An unexpected sense of blessing of the WAY ahead.

    NB: (Adveniat Albergue is an outreach of the Assumptionist Brothers in Paris and it is staffed by local and foreign volunteers. A relatively peaceful place for a youth hostel.)

    So after the wonderfully French breakfast of orange juice, coffee and breads, my pilgrim passport stamped signifying I have started my journey I set off to Gare Montparnasse confidently thanks to my test run yesterday.

    Arrived very early with time to check again the details of this SNCF four hour journey, first-class direct route to Bayonne, followed by a local train to Saint Jean Pied du Port....to admire all the luscious pastries on display...no need for any more food. All easy-peasy...🤗 oui? No!

    Right level, wrong directions, wrong platform, wrong train, wrong part of train... even wrong seat when I finally settled into it. Not my fault though because I took the seat behind the one occupied by another woman. Very pleased to see a welcome pack of food for the journey though water would have been preferred given the kiosks declined my requests for some at the station.

    All sorted, eventually. A smart young French woman came to claim my seat and told the other woman she has mine. Thankfully I hadn't eaten her preordered lunch....just retrieved my empty headache tablets packing from her brown paper bag with a " Merci" and a smile.

    I've slipped a headache tablet into my mouth...taking a sip of the remaining water bottle. Decided against venturing to the buffet section for more. ETA at Bayonne 13:45

    Since the Internet connection doesn't seem to work as promised.

    I'm grateful for suitable facilities to finish the charging though. Mine and the technology....
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  • Day21

    A travel day today... We left our boat, Craig ordered a taxi, in a mixture of French and English, and it actually turned up and could fit all 6 of us and all our luggage in it! A bit of waiting around in Le Cap d'Agde until it was time to pick up the hire cars and we were off.

    The drive to le Bar-Sur-Loup took just over 4 hours, mostly on toll roads (otherwise you can add another 2 hours to the journey time), so it was relatively calm. French people have no idea how to drive straight, in their own lane, or indicate. Quite frightening at times!

    The village of le Bar-Sur-Loup is in the mountainous hinterlands 30-60 minutes from Nice. It is quaint! Streets are skinny, our car is parked in a public car park somewhere up the hill from where we are staying, but we have lovely views across the gorge formed by the Loup River.

    We wandered down the road and had dinner at a bistro with views across said gorge, on a terrace where the pergola was dripping with grapes on a vine. Pretty awesome!
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  • Day93

    Raced back to the church for the 4.00pm chiming of the astronomical clock! Then climbed the stairs to the top of the church tower! So there are 335 steps up then you need to climb back down again! Just as I was in the bell tower ready to descend the bell chimed- nearly fell down the steps!

  • Day26

    With the loss of Brian's drivers licence, we would no longer be able to hire a car to explore Carcassonne and the surrounding district, which has caused some disruption to our plans. Plan B is for us to travel by train from Toulouse, where we were to have collected our rental car, to Carcassonne. We also needed to organise train travel later from Carcassonne to St Exupéry airport in Lyon so we could catch our flight home. Brian spent over two frustrating hours on the iPad trying to make online bookings, but nothing was working. In the end, he gave up.

    We then went for a bit of a wander round our immediate area then strolled across the beautiful Pont Alexandre III and on towards the Place de la République. Unfortunately, it was still filled with a lot of temporary structures from the previous day's concert, so it wasn't looking its best. We know that we'll be seeing again (and again) in the next four days before we leave Paris, and by then the place will be looking attractive again.

    We were very much looking forward to catching up with our old friends Ian and Eileen who were coming over to Paris from Harrogate to join us, so we decided to head to Gare du Nord and meet them there. It was a dual-purpose visit, as Brian decided that the only way that he could complete his purchase of rail tickets was to get them in person at a station. That part of the mission was more or less easily achieved, though it turned out that our friends' arrival time was a couple of hours than what we'd understood it to be, so we decided to wait for them back at our hotel instead.

    Not much excitement so far, but that was about to change. Just one Metro stop before our own, we suddenly heard a lot of shouting and saw people sprinting along the platform. Just outside the window of our stationary train, one man leapt onto another one, who was running as fast as he could, and tackled him to the ground in true rugby style. Several others then helped to sit on the fugitive. Our train was stopped at the platform for a good 20-25 minutes while we got a grandstand view of it all. It took a few minutes for the gendarmes to arrive, but when they did, they were swarming all over the place. It seemed to us that the fugitive was probably a bag-snatcher, and a couple of good Samaritans made sure that he didn't get away with it. The police were less than gentle with him, which Brian was pleased to see with his stolen wallet fresh in his mind. Unfortunately one of the pursuers appeared to have broken his arm in the scuffle, but at least justice was done and we saw some excitement.

    Late afternoon, Ian and Eileen arrived at our hotel, where they'll be staying for three nights. We first met them at Fibremakers in Melbourne, where we and they were on secondment from New Zealand and the UK respectively. We had young families at the time, and found that we had a lot in common. Since then, we've visited one another on a few occasions, the last time being about nine years ago. It was really great to meet up agin like this. We had a thoroughly enjoyable meal at a nearby restaurant while we excitedly caught up with one another's news. A day which started slowly finished really well.
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  • Day104

    Bonjour mes amis, vive la France! We are now in Strasbourg, the capital city of the Grand Est region, formerly Alsace, in northeastern France. It sits near the German border, with culture and architecture blending German and French influences. We spent the day wandering through the Old Town which is surrounded by the River ILL on one side and Canal du Faux-Rempart on the other. Beautiful bridges decorated with lots of colourful plants cross back and forth around the Old Town. Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame features an astronomical clock inside and for those who wish to climb its 332 steps partway up the spire (yes we did) it offers sweeping views of Strasbourg.Read more

  • Day15

    Another sunny morning but very cold initially. Breakfast at 8 in the conservatory and joined part way though by Elaine and Victor who we met yesterday and the chat over breakfast meant we set off a bit later than intended at 10.10. A very long flat day, 10 km more than expected with lots of dykes, canals and shell fish fisheries as we wound our way round a circuitous route to La Rochelle. We only passed through one place of note all day (Marans), but fortunately at lunchtime-ish so we could get supplies at the SuperU which didn't (!) close for lunch and we spent a pleasant lunchtime in the shade of trees siting at a picnic table by the canal, occasionally having a brief chat with other cyclists and avoiding the wistful looks of a stray, but placid, dog who seemed to want to share our lunch.....yeah right! But no coffee today, maybe that made the day seem longer?

    We left the Vendee region and entered la Charente Maritime as we continue south. Following the signs went pretty well, only thrown off course briefly by a parked car right in front of our sign obscuring it from view. But a quick retrace of our steps when we got to a junction devoid of any signage, which alerted us to the possibility that we'd gone the wrong way, sorted the problem. No repeat of the problem with finding the cycle route into the heart of St Nazaire, this time it was plain sailing, well cycling. The only worry (for the stoker) was keeping dry with a 10 metre unguarded drop from the cycle track to the canal below!

    Got to the apartment and was met by the owner, a typically chic older French lady who was very pleasant but who definitely didn't do the cleaning and tidying herself. The evening consisted of unpacking, getting some groceries for tea from the local supermarket and putting on the first load of washing. Then bed, totally pooped. It had been a long day in the sun, chilly at the start but warmer as the day went on.

    Now 5 days at a more relaxed pace in La Rochelle with Ellie and Ross arriving tomorrow.
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  • Day23

    Nice was nice, but certainly not my favourite place in this part of the world. This may in part be due to the hideous weather that came along today. Cold, a bit of a chill in the air, cloudy so not blue sky and drops of rain. A bit annoying really! Because Nice wasn't really a tourist location to be enjoyed in inclement weather, it was a bit of a dampener on proceedings. As a result, we also decided to ditch the idea of going to Monaco this visit. The hills are definitely more our thing than the waterfront locations.

    Our AirBnB has the Rick Steves guide to the French Riviera as part of their provided reading. We took his advice and decided to avoid the exorbitant parking fees and hassle in the centre of Nice and parked at a tram station. That all went pretty smoothly. We wandered around the markets in Vielle Ville, which based on the pricing of their wares (which were mostly pretty good), they cater for a more affluent clientele. It started to spit so we took refuge and had a leisurely lunch on the waterfront - the kids enjoyed crepes, Glen and I had homemade gnocchi, Craig had mostly salad. After lunch, a walk along the Promenade was required to appease lunch guilt.

    Notable things on the Promenade... Craig got a call from an old school friend on Facebook, so I thought I might as well ring my sister.

    I am being good tonight and going straight for the wine to avoid the bier ;-)
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  • Day13

    The captain made himself known at breakfast when the muesli dispenser snapped off as he was using it and deposited its contents! Even without such events we always get some odds looks as we are togged up in cycle gear whilst all the Mesdames and Monsieurs are smartly dressed - but we are crazy Brits!!!!

    Another sunny but cool day as we cycled along the prom at Sable D'Olonne admiring the fantastic sandy beach. We spent a lot of today's ride close to the sea or on Sandy or gravel forest tracks, we were back to acorns popping as well today, had a bit of rear wheel skid too. The stoker is a bit more nervous than she was after our few little tandem mishaps this year! There were numerous camp sites scattered along the route and I would imagine this area is packed in July and August not sleepy and laid back as it is in September. Most of the seaside towns are semi shut down this time of year so we decided to get provisions at the first 'open' village we came across which was Jard sur Mer. Whilst Tony was waiting outside the public toilets for me a lady cyclist asked him if he spoke English! She was from Scotland so we had a little chat with her and her husband,when he arrived, and it turned out that we are both booked into the same little hotel tonight! How weird is that!

    If we open the windows at tonight's accommodation we can hear the sea but can't see it as a pine forest is in the way. Today we opted to eat at lunch time in Jard de Mer as weren't sure we would find anything open in La Faute sur Mer as it is quite small, which was a good decision as it would be quite a hike to the village and after all this cycling the legs are quite happy to rest! Only one more cycling day then 5 days rest in La Rochel - hurray (say the legs and bum!)
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  • Day107

    Sallanches is situated on the Sallanche river near Mont Blanc, west of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and north of Megeve. Our accommodation looks out to Mont Blanc. Seeing it from here without obstruction is very special. We did a quick tour of the town last night so today we are happy to stay here and enjoy this beautiful vista while we relax and soak up the clean mountain air. It truly is a hard life 😉

  • Day106

    On the way to Sallanches, we drove through Chamonix, a very popular winter resort near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy. Here we got an up-close and personal view of Mont Blanc and its amazing glacier.
    Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps rising 4,808 m (15,774 ft). Glaciers cover approximately 40 square miles (100 square km) of Mont Blanc. I can only hope the photos show how beautiful it is.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

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