820-835: Waiting For Godot / Baby

819 – Tuesday 29th August 2017:  Arrive In Biot

A leisurely start and a run and pilates for K.  We had another interesting journey, where we nearly ran out of fuel – again!  The fuel gauge does some significant dipping when negotiating sharp bends and hills.     

Biot near Nice was our landfall and Chez Sarah, Gareth and Jade…..   Now, for those fans of Peter Sellers and “The Pink Panther” film series – Sarah has “Le Beumpe” – 8.5 months work of “Le Beumpe” in fact. New house – with pool – and Cote D’Azur wall to wall sunshine!  As the gated driveway is too narrow, we parked our Jezabeumpe by the neighbours in the “Impasse”/cul de sac.  Sarah’s neighbours are quite happy about Jez and they’re also awaiting the arrival of Le Beumpe…  one way to meet the new neighbours to apologise for the large grey motorhome lump in the parking area!

820-835  – Wednesday 30th August – Thursday 14th September:  Waiting for Baby

Lovely walking/running along La Brassiere – whoops – La Brague river.    To explain, Jade calls me “Grandpa Pig” – followers of “Pepa Pig” cartoon will understand. (I ain’t no ornery Oinker, though).  Happy family, ice creams, swimming and sun – could it be better? Non! 

Some DiY and playing with Jade – Sunday lunch in Valbonne…..it gets better. K and J an evening meal out back in Valbonne and nearly unable to get home … Uber and a friendly local helped out.  A couple of trips into Antibes and lunch in Nice.

As Sarah would be alone for some time (G gone back to his seafaring work), we decided I will stay on for an extra week and K will pilot Jez and Oscar back to Calais for 15th September crossing.  I could be in charge of a lively 2-year-old on my tod!  Takes me back 40 years!!!  But, sample nappy change brought the old skills back sharpish…

On the 11th, K set off for the tunnel having visited the vet in Biot for Oscar’s pet passport.  3 days of solid driving and she made it to the aire at Bergues with a day in hand.  A rest day and lunch in the local town.  Crossing to the UK tomorrow on 15th.

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Pool with a house 🙂

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La Brague – local river with  beautiful walking.  We walked into Biot along it in one direction for an … ice cream!

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Oscar was tricked into swimming in pursuit of a stick … once he realised, he headed for the nearest rocks and then had to swim back.

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Lunch in Valbonne … can’t beat French cuisine and presentation.

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Don’t fall over Grandpa Pig!

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of course the nappy will stay on!

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Organising the crayons.  Apparently Sarah was accused at work of OCD … in the genes?

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Sarah’s uncle and partner over from Oz came to lunch.

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Where Oscar waited when we went out for supper.  He set up howling when Sarah went to bed, so she had to get up again.  Pathetic inconsiderate dog!

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Sinead, daughter No.2 flew in for a few days, so whilst K drove all day, they all had lunch on the beach!  Followed by lounging around the pool!!!

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Sarah spotted this on a friend’s Facebook – very much our anthem. 

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661-671: Nice Family & the Camargue

661- 666 – Saturday 18th to Thursday 23rd March 2017 –  Nice in Nice

K picked up our rental car from Nice Cote Dazur ‘Kiss and Fly’ airport – an Opel ‘Ostracar’ Astra TurboSonicSupreme – just like Jez!  We journeyed into Nice – always heavy traffic into town…  to se Sarah (J’s daughter) and Jade (Sarah’s daughter).  One day we were picked up by Sarah from the campsite … (the NouNou – I know, but honestly this is what they are called!  aka. the Nanny was Jadesitting) and off to see their prospective new home in Biot.  A snip at (offered) Euro 455k.  Large home – needs some work but eminently liveable in for now – 3 beds – pool – and room for Jezparking too. Let’s hope they get it…   Lovely sunshine lunch in Biot with Sarah – we returned the following day for a reprise – fantastic fish course in with the locals.  

Young Jade wasn’t quite herself – bit of an iffy tummy, but we persuaded her to walk out with us without her Mum – first time for us too!  She walked by herself some of the time – and had amore than a few carries. In the park, she chased a pigeon but the pigeon won… Jade won the beauty contest, though…  Plenty of Grandad time – ooops, am I really a grandfather?

Nice meals at Sarah’s – K cooking – Jade improved during the week – looking forward to seeing her Dad on Friday in Carthagena.

K here:  Funny  – J forgot to mention Jade’s name for James … Grandpa Pig …. hilarious!  It comes from Peppa Pig.  J was less than enamoured with it!

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We missed seeing Jade on St Pat’s, but she did wear an Irish rugby shirt on Saturday, but wouldn’t keep still long enough for a non fuzzy photo … something to do with all the cheering and arm waving!

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A walk to Jade means a carry!

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Tummy tickling time.

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Not sure how appropriate to take a toddler into an e vape shop?

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Lunch with Sarah in Biot.

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Set lunch – sole around salmon … guess who had chips with theirs?

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Leg exercises.

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All fall down.

667 Friday 24th March

Sarah and Jade left at 5:00 am for Spain and Daddytime – K returned our hire car to the airport. The day was spent doing van cleaning and admin – must be done – the rain came…one last night at Parc des Maurettes – we will return – probably in the summer – to help with the house move, we hope.

 

668 – Saturday 25th March

Off to the Camargue – on a friend’s advice – totally flat landscape – rice, lots of horse riding, rare birds…  We started in the rain on the Peage … but after the first toll of EUR22, we headed onto the free roads.  We overnighted at a ‘France Passion’ (rice farm) for the first time in a year or more – so peaceful, no nightly light pollution – lots of stars – and – quiet all around.

 

669 – Sunday 26th March

As we drove to Santes Maries de la Mer we passed many horse riding stables.  I was into horse riding once – teenage years – my first (and only) mount was Raquel – who liked me so much she wanted to tickle my tummy on the ground – after she had thrown me unceremoniously. Pride comes before a?  

St Marie de la Mer – gorgeous sea walk – flamingoes, more horses – and lovely sunshine…  Euro 6 for 2 coffees!!!   We are in expensive France, now.  On to Aigues Mortes – stunning medieval walled town.  Euro 20 for 12-hour parking – no!  Parked at good old Intermarche and walked into town.  Aigues Mortes was once a major sea port, but is now marooned 5kms from the sea.

Our second France Passion – a winery – same peaceful quiet night – and zzzzs. 

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There are some pink flamingos, top right of the pic – but we were completely outdone by others’ long camera lens. 

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Horse riding is the major tourist must do, but we didn’t.  Something to do with a horse named Raquel … ask James!

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How much, Sir?  Two white coffees … EUR6!

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Stables just everywhere with the small sturdy white Camargue horses.  Although historically the horses were never stabled and were used to thresh grain.

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The vines are mostly ‘Gris du Sable” , a rose – low growing and looking like a Germanic war cemetery.  The other main industries are salt, rice and tourism, of course.

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Aigues Mortes with its complete town walls.

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670 – Monday 27th March

Intermarche for LPG and provisions – onward to Arles.  We passed by St Giles and K recognised the waterfront where we had walked and lunched with Maddy nearly two years ago.  Arriving in Arles we found the Riverfront free parking with free services – flat embankment for running – and wall-to-wall sunshine.  Lots of narrow streets, Roman remains – and a glass of ‘Frexpensive’ wine at Euro 8 for 2!  We reclined back at Jez – with our supermarket rose ‘Gris’. 

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Along the Rhone by our aire … just a wall separating us from the view, but nothing separating Oscar and a long drop!

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Our near neighbours.  The camels, goats, horses and dogs did not make a sound … but why do donkeys sound like they are building up to a hernia?

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I had just been saying to J that last year I really liked the Sicilian Baroque architecture, and this year the Portuguese Manueline … and lo … some curly pillars.

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Elise St-Trophine:  Just read that this portal is one of the French Heritage Sites … knew it looked impressive 

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Take you fun pick – but not at EUR69 each.  Did I mention we’re finding France VERY expensive?  I know we’re in the touristy area, but!  I googled a comparison of the cost of groceries between Guildford and Dijon … 23% cheaper in Guildford.  yes, really!

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Arles: the Roman amphitheatre is one of the best preserved in Provence and still used as a gladiators’ arena.  Bull contests in the summer, but apparently here they pluck a rose from the bull’s horns.

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Sampling the ‘Gris’ rose – not cheap (that old chestnut again!) at EUR4 each and not very good either!

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The mellow water front.

671 – Tuesday 28th March:  Recreation in Remoulins

Excellent runs for both of us along the beautiful river (Rhone?) in the morning – perfect conditions – I have identified a 5k race for us in Farnborough on April 15th – a good test – we have done these ‘Park Runs’ before – good atmosphere. 

I tried to up my speed a bit and surprisingly ran 4:48 for the last km – good improvement – K ran further than for months, too. A bit of admin to do – beers by the river…

PM – to Remoullins area intending to stay at another France Passion – but just outside the town – a nice compact aire on the river – quite full, but we squeezed in. Nice walk on the stony beach (J, you omitted to mention the couple of beers each!)  – mega play time for Oscar – he even walked on water – literally!  Months ago, he would have run a mile.  Some motorhomers in these parts are not exactly over friendly… perhaps the French think we look unfriendly, but we only get a grudging Bon Jour to our jovial one.

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Where you off to?  I was playing with you?

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No, you keep sending my pink teddy bear into the water!

 

 

 

 

 

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!