855-860: Passing to a New-Union & a Re-Union

855 – Wednesday 4th October 2017:  Passing on Good Wine!

We arrived quite late to the aire at Cornas, so the designated 5 van spaces were taken – we parked separately not blocking anyone.  Grahame and Diane had suggested trying the local vino – but no!  Out of our price range…..  we walked young Oscar between the vines – and rested our bones…

856 – Thursday 5th October:  Passing through the Luberon!

Driving through the beautiful Luberon National Park, we decided to return – explore more fully and investigate property prices. Stopped at Les Mees for the stunning rock formations…

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Stunning cliffs at Les Mees.

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Stayed at Dignes Les Bains – headed for Castellane but getting late and spotted an aire sign – not the one we’d stayed at before but closer to the town centre and along the river.  We walked along the river and it’s outdoor leisure complex of a boating lake, climbing wall etc.  One young lad was exercising his dog by being towed along on a skateboard – he then got the dog to dive into the lake off a pier …  the dog was suspended mid air for a nano second with all limbs out wide.

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The path along the river has a leisure activities; this is the boating lake.  And all with great mountain views. 

857 – Friday 6th October:  The New-Union … Meeting Cian

A.M. – K ran along the river with trusty O (not towed!).  I rested and brekkied, got Jez ready to sail – a quote from “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” seems appropriate here….

“The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast – and southward aye we fled”

(not sure whose blast roared loudest – Oscar!!!)

Southward brought us swiftly to Les Maurettes campsite where we had stayed last March/April – to see Sarah, Gareth and Jade and the new addition to the family – Cian.  Lovely site but office closed until 2:00 pm – a French/German couple were quite upset at their wait for a pitch where they could get a good TV signal – he wanted French and she was German, so they were loyal to their national TV stations.  They’d spent all morning moving the van and testing out pitches!  Much easier to not have a TV on board, like us.

The site was very busy. We got our pitch OK – the choice of one!  We seemed to be the sole GB van. A lot of French and Germans with the off smattering of Scandinavians.  Over our 4 night stay, there was relatively little movement off the pitches … the weather is still warm here – low 20s and obviously people are happy to stay for a longer time on the Cote d’Azur … understandable.

Sarah and Gareth brought 12-day old Cian to meet us – my new grandson – good Irish name (Cian Healy, front row for Ireland) a perfect baby for the perfect Grandpa Pig (?).  

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Proud Grandpa Pig.

858 – Saturday 7th October:  The Re-Union … 30 Years On

K here:  As well as heading back to Antibes to meet J’s new grandson, I also had an overnight flight booked to Gatwick.  A Thames Polytechnic (Greenwich Uni, depending on whom you talk to!) Business and International Marketing reunion.  Gill lives in Twickenham and I’d reserved a bed there and used her address for some very important post.  About 2 years ago, I frugally bought an iPhone 5c with only 8GB and have regretted it ever since.  Not being able to store more than 4 photos and virtually no apps has been a real pain.  When we were home in Bristol, Kay mentioned she was thinking of replacing her iPhone 6 …. she and Stephen both like their tech and frog leap each other with the latest.  So I purchased Kay’s phone and she posted it to Gill’s.  A quick cuppa with Gill and Gordon and I was off into town to buy a protective case for it … and thence soon after I’d swapped over and downloaded apps I wanted, with still loads of space left.  Oh joy!  Other things I notice are how sensitive the keyboard is and the screen is really clear.  Loving it.

The appointed drinks time was 5.00 and we managed a couple of Aperol Spritz before catching the train into St James’ for the reunion.  Gill and Bron (sadly Al was poorly and did not make it) are ‘me old muckers’, but I’ve not seen any of the others for 30 years.  Most were instantly identifiable … but wow, the girls really have aged well.  Not even approaching middle age … any of us.  Some had brought pix and the 80’s clothes and hair styles were very Bananarama!  It was a pretty alcofrolic evening with lots of laughs … Gill and I lost track of the time and had to do a 400m sprint across the concourse at Waterloo to catch the 0046.  

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A couple of Aperol Spritz before we set off.

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And none of us have changed at all!

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Gill and Bronwen.

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Not changed … Much!

 859 – Sunday 8th October: A Return to Nice is Nice

The next morning we giggled and exclaimed our way through Gill’s photo albums.  It was wonderful to catch up with people I’ve not seen for such a long time, but reunions are pretty much about curiosity and mine has been satisfied.

My 2.00 flight was delayed an hour due to a faulty laptop … seems mad that it took an hour to replace / repair something that is essentially disposable and not part of the plane’s infrastructure.  Polite announcements from the Pilot about our patience with the delay … as if we the choice!  Lovely to arrive back just in time to see the blue skies again.  Great time, but very great to be back with my boys.  

And guess who are so glad to see you back – the Boyzzz!

 

860 – Monday 9th October:  Jobs and Antibes

We both ran down into the local park.  J managed to get lost and had to ‘ring a friend’.  K found him on the Find a Friend app and navigated him back to base.

K started to ‘laundrify’ with the onsite facility – clothes line from tree to tree, jobs done including finalising my tax return/amount owed to HMRC – not too much… then out with the e-bikes for a jaunt to Antibes.  Oscar barked a bit to begin – then the Kay-suggested covering the Os-car solution kicked in – almost silence, again.  And not a bark on the return leg.  He’s learning :).  A visit to the e-cig shop to remedy a minor issue.  Ice creams (as always) although our favourite shop was closed. 

Tomorrow – “to fresh fields and pastures new…”

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Playing with my ‘new’ iPhone 6 – loving the camera definition.

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836-848: The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

836-848  – Friday 15th – Wednesday 27th September 2017:  The Longest Separation and a LOT of Charging About

I crossed back to Blighty on the 15th.  Although I’ve done it before, I was still slightly nervous about Oscar’s pet passport being in order.  I checked and rechecked the vet’s entries comparing to the previous vet’s.  No issues at all and we sailed through the process quickly.

On returning and leaving England, it is normal tradition for us to stop over to see Ian, young Jimmy and Nicky’s parents in Rustington.  However, Ruth and Brian were in Brittany visiting their other daughter, Tracy, and Ian was up in town, so not this trip.  The up side was that I booked an extra night in the Brighton campsite and spent an extra evening with Maddy, who has just moved here.  I got to see her great 2 bed flat (she’s sharing with a good friend who is at Uni there) and to wander around and SPEND in Brighton.  The flat is walking distance from the centre, so we did not have far to carry a chalk board and mirror (which I promptly smashed), as well as M’s new pre-loved clothes and my new frock and costume jewellery.  If you’ve not been to Brighton, it is buzzing place.  Drug addicts, students and Barbour jackets all rub shoulders together … it is very real.  The break a mirror and bad luck happens adage happened … all electronic.  Th sat nav lost all its maps.  The sat pad (iPad with Co-Pilot) died altogether and wanted re-initialising and the radio died.  The first two have been resolved and the radio binned.

Before J joined me I moved between Farnham (close to parents and sister), Bristol for dentist, John Lewis and e bike shop and Shropshire to drop off Christmas presents at my brother’s.

  • Teeth:  X ray and all fine – good to know as will be away, if all goes to plan, for a year.
  • John Lewis:  Purchased a few last Christmas gifts … all my Christmas shopping is done and wrapped!!!!  A chap on the escalator was moaning that it is too soon for Xmas cards and wrapping paper …I gleefully told him that some of us are all wrapped, cards written and stamped as we are off travelling.  And I pre-bought and am using my birthday / Christmas gift from the Aged P’s and a little bit from James – a GPS sports watch.  One of the really good things about it is that the time digits are really large … I no longer have to squint or reach for glasses to read the time!
  • E-Bikes:  this was phase 2 of the get Oscar about with us.  We bought the Os-car doggy trailer in Holland, but I could not get up hills towing the combined 35kgs+ of Oscar and Os-car.  Also, we want to travel a bit further when parked up.  We do not want to tow a car; a scooter is no good unless we had a side car for Oscar … and we’d both want to drive anyway … so e-bikes it is.  I’d done some research and looked at lots of forums, ordering the bikes from a shop in Bristol, who had stock and gave a decent discount.  We’ve gone for Kalkhoff Agattu …. both in matt black as no stock of the white, and I have a bigger battery to compensate for the towing.  We found time to test them for all of about 15 mins before we left for France and they really do make a difference, especially up hill when you switch to high power mode.  Setting off is assisted too.  I was a bit reluctant about cheating and loss of exercise, but everyone we’ve spoken to loves their e-bike and I think we will too.
  • I’d not seen brother Tim and Sarah for about 2.5 years, so it was good to catch him between his house parties … think modern day Downton Abbey and you have their lifestyle!  They were off to a shooting party in Yorkshire and I was given a bag of veggies from the walled kitchen garden.  They are planning a trip to the Balkans somewhere in Spring, so I hope we can meet up then.

James left Antibes on the 20th; his flight left 30 mins after his ex-wife landed … so Sarah really was not alone long should the baby have decided to make an appearance.  This is the longest by far we’ve ever been apart – 9 nights.  Boy, was it good to be back together.  However, little time to enjoy being together as more jobs to be done!  Including:

  • J’s eco cardiagram for the DVLA.  Yes, his birthday was in April, but the doctor’s two errors on the form were picked up separately and because he was identified with a heart murmur, they then wanted his heart checked out.  Anyway, the consultant said she could hardly identify the murmur and they he would have no problems with his license …. I should think not, when he is a runner!  But good to know, all the same.  Now that we are back in France, we just need to work out where to get his license posted to …. Kerstin, are you reading this???
  • Jez had his engine and habitation service – all good.
  • Fiat in Guidlford …. thrice! They’d not ordered the replacement part for the dashboard (under warranty) when it was booked in over 2 months ago, so we had to go back the morning we caught the tunnel to France … I put the crossing back a few hours and it was just as well I had, as the mechanic had out the radio back in up side down, so we had to go back again.
  • Vet for kennel cough and to stock up with a year’s supply of drugs!
  • Washing, more washing and cleaning
  • Sorting ‘stuff’ in the Aged P’s attic as a) we’ve had notice not to add to the expanding pile in case the roof comes down! and b) we wanted some of the stuff, such as Balkans guide books and winter clothes. We’re spreading our love (as one of my pilates videos says) … no, I mean, our stuff.  Our normal bikes are in Clare & Chris’ garage.
  • Weigh bridge … we need to drink the glass bottled beer and wine, eat the two massive sacks of dog food and stop stock piling tins and toothpaste!

We managed to catch up with a few people, but really only a few people.  Stephen and Kay, our old next door neighbours cooked and always delicious.  Frances and Edward to belatedly celebrate E’s special birthday, which we missed as we were on baby watch in Antibes.  And I had a great Sunday afternoon with the girls – my old muckers, and Ian and Jimmy in Twickenham.  Just not enough time.

We crossed back at 1416hrs on 27th – the next adventure begins 🙂

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Maddy tucking into a Full English (she justified it by going to the gym before) …

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… whilst I froze and wo-manfully smiled whilst she ate!  I did nick a piece of bacon.

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Moreton Corbet Castle, an extended castle and Elizabethan House which was owned by the same family who own Tim’s house … his is in slightly better nick!

 

And announcing the safe arrival of Cian Ash Weston on Sunday 24th September.

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343-351: Nine Nice Nights Near Nice!

343 – Tuesday 29th April 2016 – Destination Nice and a Nice Call

We had a last run along the coast in Lavento – our last run in Italy for … we don’t know how long before we return to Italy.IMG 0564

The beach front at Lavento.

We took the motorway up to Nice.  Now to speak in French … tres cher compared to Italian motorways!  Nice is too nice for campsites and free parkings so we are quite a way down the road in Antibes at an ACSI site, so EUR17 for 2 plus electric.  Campsite quiet with large and hedged pitches.

As we arrived we said ‘Good day’ to an Aussie Camper on tour.  A few glasses later and we had exchanged France / Spain and Italy good spots info and wifi Sims.

Nice phone call from my Munchkin who is on 4 weeks of Easter holidays.  “I’m bored, broke and I miss you” … not necessarily in that order.  “Can I come out to where you are?”.  Yes, but since very important A2 exams are looming, the deal is 4 hours of revision per day.  Agreed … she arrives on the 1st.  Our Nice destination is really so we can spend some time with J’s daughter and granddaughter, Sarah and Jade, who live in the old port area.  Slight change of plan – we had planned to mostly sleep at Sarah’s apartment, but when Maddy is here, I will sleep each night in Chardonnay so Maddy has a bed – although she complains it is like a park bench!  Also, the revision is more likely to happen without the distraction of the most cute 10 month baby.

 

344-350 – Wednesday 30th March to Tuesday 5th April 2016:  Nice is Nice!

 

For a change, I am condensing the next week into categories ….

Running

We ran most days and my Pilates mat made an appearance.  J ran along the Boulevard des Anglais several times when he stayed with Sarah.  I only had one opportunity to run here as I slept in Chardonnay with Maddy except for the first night – and knowing it was my only chance, I even ran in the rain!   It really is a special place to trot.  Otherwise our run was 1.5 km down the hill to the coast.

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We ran on the bike track along the road … not a patch on the Boulevard in Nice.  This is looking east towards Cagnes sur Mer

My return run up the hill, took me sweating and panting into a bakery to purchase croissants for M – was kindly given a bag as the assistant could see I was about to carry on running … incongruous!  I managed to gasp out that they were for my daughter … wonder is she believed me?

And there’s J – had to buy him a belt …. all this running meant he had to walk holding up his trousers!!!


Transport

On our second day (day 1 being jobs for both us and Sarah, who had just got back from seeing family in Dublin), we walked down to the sea front to catch the number 200 bus to Nice Centre.  It is supposed to come every 20 mins, but busses in either direction seemed scarce.  Another patient passenger explained that there is a general strike today … about 40% only of the transport workers are working.  I explained that ‘en greve’ was one of the first French words I learned.  They speculated that in England we no longer have the right to strike … we subsequently read that the French air traffic controllers have been on strike 43 times in the last 7 years!   After 50 mins the bus did arrive and after another hour we made it to the centre of Nice.  A bit of a walk then to Sarah’s apartment to drop our stuff … it had become a 3 hour journey!  a 20 min walk each end and a 1 hour bus ride, without a strike and I and Maddy were going to have to do this each day AFTER REVISION!

However, a saviour in the form of Sarah very generously offered us use of her car … her English driving license has just expired so the car would be dormant.  So K remained sober.   I have been zipping back and forth between Antibes and Nice, although not always the same route – and not intentionally!   I eventually sussed the shore route is best as fewer traffic lights… one evening driving back, Maddy and I were stopped at 18 sets!  Great to use the car to collect M from her flight.  Given M’s heavy bag and the 1.3 km walk from the bus stop up to the campsite … it was really appreciated.

Sarah had mentioned she needed to get the car cleaned as her husband Gareth was arriving home shortly … I did the inside and then we took it to the jet wash.  It still did not look sparkly so J attacked it by hand.  But the DUST – it blew in and rained in.  Chardonnay is no longer an off white, but has orange streaks and so did Sarah’s clean (or was) car.  So the morning we handed the car back, we took it for its third wash.  The jet wash place was heaving on a Sunday, possibly to be expected, but also on a weekday morning …. Queuing 20 mins plus.  With all this dust, it really is the business to be in.

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Evidence that for a nano second, it looked all sparkly!

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We spotted this Monaco plated Bentley, illegally parking and commented that due to the colour (not the parking infringement) that it had to be a female’s car.  It sure was – blond and beautiful … but I now notice that it is parked under a pawn brokers … wonder if she’d been selling her 21cwt rings?

Revision

My Munckin started well and then flagged …

  • Day 1: 1 hour, and after a flight 🙂
  • Day 2:  3 hrs 20 mins 🙂
  • Day 3:  3 hrs 20 mins 🙂
  • Day 4:  Sadly ZERO!  The concept had been that M revised, whilst J and I cleaned Sarah’s holiday let apartment …. however, sleep seemed to kidnap M.
  • Day 5:  Another big fat zero, but to be honest not much opportunity.

I suspect, it was more than she would have achieved at home!

 

Food

One lunch in an amazing bio restaurant – limited menu, but oh, so fresh.  A pizza on Maddy’s last day with a really thin crispy base.  We did not care much for the waitress – her nose twitched like a rabbits and she seemed not not be entirely happy with her work, but I ate all my pizza, it was so yummy.  Sarah led us to THE MOST AMAZING ice cream parlour … homemade and so many flavours, including macaroon, creme brûlée and Irish Coffee … of course!  She then managed to lead us to a bar!  I had my first French espresso … twice the size of an Italian one and not a patch on the caffeine kick … I’m so gonna miss the Italian cafe!  Please notice, my coffee, whilst J had wine … I was driving M and myself back to Chardonnay that evening to sleep.  Made up for it with a couple of glasses of Marsala later 🙂

It really helps to have a local to take you to the best places!

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Yes, Sylvie – just for you!

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Limoncello after the Pizza.

And a few shots of Jade in the restaurant … somehow seem to have missed taking a pic of Sarah.

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351 – Wednesday 6th April 2016:  Bike to Antibes

No Maddy, she flew home yesterday afternoon.  No Sarah or Jade:  Gareth arrives for his 8 weeks shore leave after 8 weeks on a super yacht.  Lazy start and then we cycled to Antibes.  Lunch in a cafe with a half litre carafe …. yeah, I could join J in a glass.  Walk to wall sunshine and still 27C at 4.00 p.m.  Lovely!  Then an interminable wait at a mobile phone shop to sort out mifi hub SIM data.  I needed to phone to activate it, but the French was so fast, I could not keep up.  Asked a couple of youths – they could not do it either, so had to go back to the shop to ask them.  The whole exercise took 1.5 hrs GRRR!