June- July 2015 Europe or Oz?? Want to join us?


South Yarra, Australia

Itchy feet here again. There’s been a few days of cool, wet weather …and this is spring. Winter will be yuck

Our other incentive is that our long time travelling buddies (Allen and Deanna) are getting back on the horse, or maybe it’s a big silver bird. They will be in France in June and so we’d love to catch up with them.

We will probably only be in Europe for 6-8 weeks around mid May to mid July…maybe we move the window a little later else winter will still be in full force??

We will get another Pug, probably a new 308 this time.

I’m thinking maybe we fly in to Portugal this time plus some time in the Loire Valley

Suggestions please

Visitors welcome…especially Master Chef Boris (and Marg) or the cooking twins Beth / Rick

Firming up – advice needed


Thanks for those who have given us some ideas of places in France / Loire Valley.

Mud map looks like this.

  • Fly into Lisbon
  • There for 4 days – get over jet lag, get car, have a little squiz southwards to places like Sintra, Evora, Estoril and maybe Estremoz
  • Head northwards and spend 1-2 days in Coimbra 1-2 days in Mateus 2 days in Viana do Castelo Actual towns not locked in depends on accom but this gives you the idea
  • Then we need to get from Viana do Castelo to Angers in Loire Valley …need two overnight stops to break up the trip. 1 night in Gijon (Don’t know anything about it, picked it by location on map) 1 night in San Sebastian – been here before and liked it ..maybe 1 night in Bordeaux – we loved it there
  • So then 1 week in Angers
  • 1 week in Amboise We’ve been to both for a v brief time and they are well placed for Loire Valley adventures
  • Then on to Noyers to see Ian and Margaret and on to Metz for June 8 to get in synch with Allen and Deanna – or maybe meet them on their way southwards??


Thanks to those who have indicated they may join us..my simple rules for visitors

  • You’re own your own during the day..unless we all decided to do something together over dinner
  • We expect you home for dinner
  • We will have a car and can usually do train station collects / drop offs

Serious preparation – Bought a local Pug 308

Ruby the Aussie 308

South Yarra, Australia

Avid readers of my blog will know that we have enjoyed the various French vehicles that we have leased in France in the last few years.  We have spent many hours in Pugs, especially the 3008.  This year when we arrive in Lisbon we will collect a Peugeot 308.  I wanted something a little more exciting than the 3008 and the RCZ is too small.

After Sandy’s 4 year old Mazda 3 was destroyed by a Toorak tractor recently, I have been trying to work out the best replacement vehicle.  In the six weeks when we have only had one car (my MX5), I have also been wondering if we really need the two vehicles??   Well the short list was a Mazda 3 Astina and the Peugeot 308 Allure Premium.

Yesterday was the first time Sandy had been behind the wheel of any car since her accident and I took the opportunity to get her to try both the Maz and the Pug.  Not much between them, The Maz is slightly cheaper (supposedly due to the Free Trade agreement with Japan), has auto-stop in traffic but there are a gazillion of them around…bit boring

We took the plunge and bought the Pug – Love the glass roof, the radar cruise control and the self park.  Well I think we will grow to love the self park – when I was trying it out, it parks with terrifying speed…I must use more braking!!  Will be interesting using it in France!!  It has a function to test if bay is big enough –  that will be fascinating.

Its about 7 weeks until we depart for Lisbon – as usual we have some time alone and some time with friends.  We’re looking forward to meeting Marvin / Linda in the Loire Valley and Allen / Deanna in that corner of Switzerland/Germany/France.

Boris – it is not too late for you to pack your accordion and chef’s utensil’s (and Marg)…I will do airport pickup

One month to lift off..Portugal, France and Italy


South Yarra, Australia

After completing my work quota for the year just before Easter, I am now getting things sorted for this year’s trip.

Before I go on I should welcome some new readers – after my stint at Melbourne Polytech, several people asked to be added to my blog…I added some others that I was sure meant to ask to be added 😉 Its easy to unsubscribe, if you want to drop off I won’t be too offended but I may force you to use GroupWise again if you do!!

So what’s ahead??

We fly into Lisbon in mid-May then, as per my normal plan, we’ll spend a few days in the first place, get over jet lag, get into holiday mode and pick up the car. This time we’ve decided on a Peugeot 308 and not our usual bigger 3008. A bit cheaper and a bit nippier round the mountains. After buying a 308 in Melbourne recently, I am very happy with the decision. Only real difference is that we have a petrol one here and we’ll stick with the masses and have a diesel one there.

One interesting thing that the 308 has, is quite a different dash – they have ignored the ‘heads up’ displays and given you a small steering wheel and a high instrument cluster. You can see in the attached photo taken from in front of my eyes that it does actually work. It’s especially good on a road like this one where you can see the limit and your speed side by side


Also think that the auto park will get a real work out in France 😉 I’m actually curious to see if the car will even try the v tight bays that you find in Europe??

More on the Pugs during the trip – but if you are looking to buy one in Melbourne, talk to Joel at Bayside Peugeot. He and Fabian are great

We have nothing booked in Portugal but we have ten days and we will meander northwards. We’ve been told that Coimbra, Mateus, Viana
do Castelo and Santiago de
Compostela are all worth visiting. We were also told not to worry about Oporto

Since it is now 1 year and 1 day since my first book was published, perhaps I’ll find a nice place to sit and write the next one?? I’m sure that somehow it must be a tax deduction if I only write in Europe??

Other tips about Portugal welcome…Les and Nelson??

We then meet Marvin and Linda at a lovely place near Tours in the Loire Valley. We have just over a week there.

Nothing much planned for next couple of weeks except a side trip to see one of the Friday Walking Ladies who now lives in France. Then we meet up with Allen and Deanna in Menerbes. It’ll be fun to be back with our original travel buddies in the south of France.

Then on Italy with some time in Milan and Verona. Will two days be enough for Milan Expo 2015??

Eight weeks and we’ll be home again

Planning – hmm

Airfares – done
Car – done
Travel insurance – done
Bought some euro
Sandy has her travel phone sorted
Camera charged

That should be enough 🙂

Starlog Friday….I mean Star Blog…


Cascais, Portugal

We have escaped the early Melbourne winter and sitting in Portugal, trying to stay away and banish that Day 1 jet lag.

The last few days in Melbourne reminded me why we love Europe in the oz winter….it was 3 degrees at home at 1130am on Wednesday. We left on Thursday night and, after a 2 hour stop over in Dubai, arrived safely in Lisbon 27 hours later. The first leg was on an Emirates 380, the second on an Emirates 777, both comfortable.

All those years of traveling that means I have life time gold and it counts for heaps – business class checkin and then Moët /crayfish in the lounge was v nice. Even better when the purser came up and welcomed me on board and said “..if there is anything I can do please ask…” Sandy grabbed the chance and said “it seems both meals have bell pepper / capsicum, can I have something else..” Mary was promptly back and offered Sandy the business class meals. Perfect.

While I can never justify business class fares, I do still like getting the hotel car to collect us at the airport. I justify it on grounds that you are tired, want to be pampered and in a state that makes you vulnerable….anyway Rafael was there to collect us after we raced thru customs and immigration. Maybe that’s not quite right, the immigration guys scanned my passport 4 times and lots of head shaking before he stamped it….v odd. But bags were there in 2 minutes and we were in our way in ten.

We are staying just out of Lisbon in a place called Cascais at a Pousada….thanks Marvin it is fabulous, has 6 art galleries in the complex.

Day 1 – Checking out Lisbon


Cascais, Portugal

Well we both slept really well on night 1, waking at 3am but then sleeping soundly until 845am. Up and showered and a hearty breakfast ….biggest issue was we sat outside on the terrace and it was bit hot. Forecast 32, sunny and no wind (VERY windy when we arrived).

We set off from Cascais to Lisbon on the train – yes I know, my regular readers will say…public transport!! Has Sandy taken over the arrangements??? No it is a slight aberration as we don’t pick up the Pug until Sunday. I must say it was all good and cheap. About 4 euros each for an all day ticket

Headed off and saw the beach crowd going the other way, obviously Cascais is the place to head on a hot sunny Saturday. There were very long queues for tickets.

One early impression for the day was the proliferation of graffiti…some good, lots terrible. I know that train lines are the haven for this sort of stuff but it was everywhere as the day went on.

Had a morning snack in town plus some refreshments – I was staggered how many locals and tourists sit in the v hot full sun. We did our standard Day 1 arrangement, a couple of Yellow Bus tours. In between we did a v good local tour of an exhibition called Lisbon Story Centre – boring name for a v good show explaining the history of Lisbon.

The bus tours were, as always, a good snap shot of the town and its environs. We saw the old and new, again only issue was the heat. We wanted a shady spot on the bus but it was v hot, reaching 38 during the arvo.

You can see some of the better graffiti in the photos…the bad stuff was not worth a photo. Saw some beautiful and some derelict buildings, the town seems to be recovering but you can see it has recently been thru some hard times.

Another odd highlight was a local entrepreneur’s provision of the world’s sexiest WC – that was the claim and it was 1 euro each. Was pleasant, clean and some interesting posters but really an ad for Renova toilet paper.


Back to hotel and dinner at a local place – an OK pizza for me. Sandy had grilled octopus – and it was an entire octopus..massive and OK not great

New Peugeot plus trip to Sintra

Sintra, Portugal

Well after two good nights sleep, today was the day to collect our second Peugeot 308. (Hopefully Ruby is safely parked at home in Melbourne). A taxi to the pick up spot, a quick phone call and the man appeared and drove us the 50 metres to teh car. Very happy but Silver is not quite up the the oz standard – no leather heated masage seats, no reverse camera and no self parking…how will we survive!!!

Headed off and made it to Sintra. So much to see there and it is sooooo hilly. We’ve done our 15000 steps today – but it doesn’t measure the effort involved.

You can see from the photos we saw lots of TILES, I had forgotten that Portugal has lots of tiled buildings and tiled internals. Beautiful.

Back to the hotel in the late arvo – I had a massage while Sandy found the best Sangria mixer in town!! Evening ended with a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant where the Sangria mixer had moved for the night shift..wonderful

Moving day tomorrow – off to Coimbra and Viseu tomorrow

Obidos and then Viseu

Obidos, Portugal

Sadly we had to leave Cascais and its wonderful, although windy, weather. One thing that the Peugeot man had told us was that we needed to go to the Post Office and buy a special toll road card. They have some roads that are ‘electronic toll only’ and so you buy a prepaid card – I tried to do online Sunday night without success.

So we checked out and headed off in HiHo (The new Pug’s name…it is silver and so HiHoSilver…get it??). We had a minor deviation then ended up back near starting point, on our second attempt to drive to the post office we managed to find it in a narrow one- way street and I couldn’t believe my luck.. a parking spot right outside. As I was parking, I read the sign again….maybe it says JP’s only?? Not 100% clear to someone who does not speak the local lingo and Sandy can run in and be back in 2 minutes. Let’s wing it and keep a sharp eye out for the parking man

After five minutes and no returning wife, my sharp eye has become a little less sharp and I am starting to fiddle with settings on the car. I also realise that the car is not running – the clever ‘engine stop/start’ has stopped the car…another defence gone. The good news is I now have managed to shuffle the songs on the complete 100 albums that I brought on a USB stick. I’m feeling happy then an SMS arrives…Sandy has been gone ten minutes and now she has sent me a message ‘long queue’. Is the message slow in getting through or does she still have a long wait. I scan for parking guys and notice that there is another bay ahead of me, but it may be a disabled bay….can’t take the risk. Watch harder for parking guys.

Another five minutes goes and my heightened awareness is gone again. But I’ve turned on the ‘use tollroads’ option in the GPS and worked out how to disable the stop/start. Another five minutes and ….Sandy appears with toll card. We are safe..we are back on the road

Off to Obidos – it was an easy drive and a few tolls….all normal pay cash ones.

Obidos is beautiful but plenty of walking on cobbles required. Luckily Sandy asked at the tourist office as we arrived and they said “the church shuts in 40 minutes, you’d better hurry”. We made a beeline for it and it was well worth it, beautiful tiled walls.

Wonderful walled village

We were lucky to spot that wonderful “Nespresso” sign on the wall of a little lunch bar. We walked inside and the proud owner said ‘would you prefer to sit in my garden for lunch’ and took us out into her back yard. They had it still set from a wedding the previous evening…wow, magnificent. Lunch was good – I was boring / cautious and simply had ham and cheese croissants, Sandy had a magnificent salad…..and of course some great coffee.

We headed on to Viseu for our next hotel / Pousada

Dropped off the bags in our magnificent room and headed into town. We knew as we walked that we were going downwards and an uphill return was going to occur…but we continued. The town has a wonderful very long (and steep) shopping strip which is very focussed on two industries wedding and funerals. Shop after shop with wedding dresses…then lots of headstones / wreaths…..a bit odd.

The walk back was tough, when we walked past a parked funicular we knew must be near the top of the hill. A few mis-steps courtesy of a wrongly placed google direction and we were back at our lodgings


Viseu, Portugal

Day started a little quietly until I remembered it was May 19….ohhh that’s why you been sitting typing away on Facebook…..sorry

Last night we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, it was nice but nothing special.

The last few nights has reminded us that we don’t like 2-3 day stops, so we have booked 4 nights at Santiago de Compostella…that means slightly longer days in the car but better overall. Speaking of HiHo (The Silver car), I’ve been very happy with it. I have been struggling a but with speed limits, I sit on 105 in the 100 zone and see no others for 20 minutes (toll roads) and then they fly past in smallish groups at maybe 120-130. Yesterday I decided to tag on the back of the pack. HiHo went from 105 to 155 very quickly but I then decided it wasn’t a good idea and backed off down to 110.

We’ve seen lots of eucalypts on the side of the road in plantations, mostly blue gums, but interspersed with pine trees. Odd mix. Speaking of timber, I am amazed at the things here that are made of cork…shoes, handbags, watch straps, hats, ugg boots…I guess they know that corks for bottles are disappearing.

So today we went to Coimbra – a strong university town with some history. The Uni is over 750 years old and has an amazing library, luckily I took a couple of photos before I realized that none were allowed. It was also interesting to see the room where graduates get their degrees….it has a little more class than the Melbourne conference centre!!

There were some very steep steps again – hard to imagine Sandy picking that for her birthday outing!! Luckily we found a funicular for the downwards trip. The Uni cafe was an experience, a gazzilion people in v small area…but cheap food. Afterwards I had an eclair and Sandy had a Portuguese tart.

Home again and now getting ready for dinner

Birthday at Dux Palace and much more

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Fresh from an outing for the day at Coimbra, Sandy’s birthday dinner awaited. Some hasty searching on Trip Advisor and a new local place appealed to Sandy. But of course it was only 710pm and they don’t open until 730pm, not even for bookings. A quick spruce up and it is now 740pm and so I make a quick call…it rings out to voice-mail.

Do we take second choice, do we walk down to the place and, if we can’t get in, look nearby….and suddenly my phone rings. The restaurant has called back – saved by technology – and yes they can fit us in. We set off. We get to the street and the address is not a restaurant??? This is starting to look bad. Maybe we are in the wrong suburb – lots of european streets have names of famous people. We walk to the other end of the street and find the place…looks v good.

We are greeted by the proud owner – they have been open 6 weeks and the place was really buzzing. Much more live than the stuffy formal restaurant of the previous night. We had a great meal, including some local sparkling all for less than 40 Euro. Oh yes we had the special Portuguese cod…not bad.

This morning we headed off after brekky.

We had 4 nights booked at Santiago de Compostella but we had time for a stop in Porto.

Porto was lovely but like so much of Portugal, parts look great but parts look v run down. We also got caught in some odd weather, first too hot and then the cold breeze came in and it was chilly.

HiHo (the car) has had a solid workout, nearly 1000 km done and averaging about 6.4 L/100Km with a lot of 120kmph driving. Seats not as comfy as home 308 but pretty good, we also uploaded all our music (from home) today on to the jukebox…we now have 100 albums to play 🙂

Crossing the border into Spain this afternoon was interesting. I came around a fairly tight bend at 130 kmph and noticed a police car on the side of the road with lights on…I instinctively slowed and then as we turned the road was blocked by 30-40 military guys and 8 heavy duty military vehicles. Lots of serious guns…seems they were looking for someone / something. We slowly went past…a bit like a booze bus in oz but the guy had an automatic gun over his shoulder. He let us past

We then went through the next toll booth and again LOTS of military guys..again we were OK

Safely in Santiago now and a few slow days

Portugal – One amazing week

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Wow..what a week. For the new followers of my blog, I do a daily entry that is emailed to a select few and posted on Facebook / Twitter but then do a weekly summary blog that is emailed to all. This is the weekly one

So we landed in Lisbon and had 3 nights booked in a fab Pousada (hotel). During the week we made it to Cascais, Coimbra, Viseu, Porto and Sintra…we needed MUCH longer. Next time we will revert to our normal process – book 2 weeks and use that as the hub and make trips out from there.

The car was great although it was a little disappointing that this model doesn’t have the heated, leather massage seats, or the auto park or the rear facing camera…have had to revert to manual parking. Performance and economy was outstanding.

Sandy was not so happy with the new car name – HiHo. I thought it was appropriate for a silver car but the link to a Lone Ranger was not given a tick by Tonto. HiHo Silver it is.

Today’s entry has many photos of people. I enjoy sitting enjoying my coffee (if I can find a good one) and take photos of the passing people…today I had good coffee, good company and great location

My recollections of Portugal are

1. LOTS of fascinating history…interesting that Spain and Portugal at one stage split the world between themselves, such was their domination. A uni that has been around for more than 750 years…complete with amazing library and its library prison (I guess for late returns??)

2. Signs everywhere of economic struggles. Reports of improvement and lots of wonderfully restored buildings but many, many run down ones. I guess if there is no growth, then no-one wants to take the punt on price growth.

3. There were few signs of industry, few crops and little livestock…maybe it was just the areas we drove through but industry was quickly evident as we entered Spain

Bottom line is that they have to build on tourism – they have masses of attractions, v good hotels and great roads….based on my exhaustive research of one week in the country.

A great example of the upside in Portugal was the birthday dinner we had at the Dux Palace..the owner was a super enthusiastic ambassador for her country. Another example was a company advertising the sexiest WC in the World..it was good but maybe not that good…at least they’re trying

We made it to Spain yesterday and have 4 days at Santiago de Compostella

During my driving this week, we were discussing how lucky we are to have many friends / colleagues with such wide and varied interests. Some our kids know and some they don’t. In Melbourne (when we are there) we normally have a ‘family dinner’ each Sunday night even though the boys have not lived at home for many years (since we ran away…that’s another story). The dinners are fairly lively discussions on many matters, some IT related, many not. Some I understand, many I don’t understand at all. The presence of non-Bucks has a moderating and broadening influence…thanks Tahlia.

I have decided that we will implement a new Sunday night scheme, maybe once a month – I will invite someone who my kids probably know ‘of’ but do not ‘know’. Any volunteers???


Day trip to Pontevedra

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

We’d decided to have a quiet ‘bar snack’ dinner and head to bed. Those plans changed when we met a couple from Dallas and chatted to them for a couple of hours. They made me feel a little guilty as they had done the camino walk…while we had flicked along in HiHo at 130 kmph. But her blistered feet (and follow up questions at breakfast on leasing cars) made me sure we’d made the right call

Today we drove from Santiago to a nearby fishing village of Pontevedra – pleasant drive, nice lunch and interesting walk through the fish markets.

Walking along the river bank after lunch we saw v large numbers of large fish – if they are good eating then there is no excuse to go hungry there.

On the way home we stopped at a Peugeot dealer to try and get a 308 cargo net..would be handy here and fab at home. None in stock will take 2 days and we’ll be gone. Will try in Tours

Back home – too late for Delroy quiz…Managed to get an SMS answer right and Tony had his good chuckle about “Gary in France”, especially the fact I said I was getting ready to write another book #HowGoodIsThat

A day around Santiago

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Today we spent in Santiago, including a tour of the Cathedral and attached Museum. It was very impressive and there was a packed service in the cathedral at the time – all in Spanish, the English one is later in the day.

Wandered around town – it is a beautiful old village

Lunch stop – disappointing, I had a chorizo roll. A million slices of Chorizo and nothing else in a v dry bun

Best news is we found fab coffee

Santiago to Santander..and Eurovision

Santander, Spain

We’ve had an interesting 24 hours. Last night we decided to have a red wine / cheese / pate dinner in our room…but first we needed to go shopping for those difficult ingredients. We had seen a sign for a Carrefour (French supermarket) earlier in the day. Some quick work by google and we were off in HiHo for the ten minute trip.

Wow – now we know where all the locals spend Saturday afternoon – Carrefour was in a massive shopping centre. A bit like Karrinyup in Perth or Chadstone in Melbourne. We headed to get our shopping and I am always interested in things that are different – first there was a shop called “Lefties,” Yes it does have the comma, why??? Women’s clothes, not sure how it translates??

Then in the supermarket they had their late afternoon specials – 2 roast chicken and some bread for 10 Euro (A$15). Other oddity was the massive hams for sale – none refrigerated

A trip home and we settled in and watched Eurovision – if only someone had told me that Australia was part of Europe, I’d have saved a fortune on airfares in recent years…not sure where the road is that connects us??? It was a little frustrating with the english broadcast being translated into spanish. If I listened carefully you could still hear most of the english in the background.

Can’t say I have ever watched before and not sure I’ll break my neck to see it again

Early start as we had a 4.5 hour drive to Santander – all good until we hit some rain and then fog. Must be a common occurrence and road signage was very good. Really only fifteen minutes of special care and we were off again. HiHo did nearly 500 kms today at just better than 6.4 litres / 100km

We arrived in town and could see our hotel but the roads had changed since the last GPS update…we drove past twice before I snagged the right way through the one way maze. Next hurdle was the ‘car lift’. Yep – you drive in and, while sitting in your car, you lean out and press the button for the basement …then drive out. Would be no fun if the lift got stuck – Sue thinking of you

Found a great coffee and pizza shop nearby called La Gallofa…ahh for great coffee

Santander to Blaye (Bordeaux)

Bordeaux, France

Before I mention yesterday’s trip, I must add a footnote to Santiago. When we were in the cathedral, Sandy went to light a candle for a few friends and we were a little surprised to discover that they were selling the battery operated ones!! Same price point of 1 euro but huh, you must be joking. After breakfast in Santander we headed bravely for the car lift. No problems and we were quickly on the road. Again HiHo completed around 500km and consumption well under 6km per 100, almost all was 120-130 kmph. It was interesting that the Spanish roads out of Santander were signed as 120 kmph and were quite tight bends. A few times I felt I was hanging on at 105…and HiHo is a new car with new tyres and the road was dry, not sure who does 120??? Once was crossed the border to France, speed limit went to 130 kmph and the roads were great. They bulk of the drive was on flat, straight roads. Arrived at our accommodation at Blaye (near Bordeaux and a great wine region). We are in a v nice new cabin in the back of our hosts’ property. We are the second customer to stay in the particular cabin. Sandy gave the host family’s young daughter (Leah) a copy of Tahlia’s book (Little book, big island)…massive hit. Sandy had to walk her through every page and the book was taken to bed and was still in her hand this morning as she walked to school. Veronique and Pierre (hosts) prepared a fab meal last night for us and again an amazing breakfast…now we have to go to Geraldine’s brother’s restauarant for lunch. Belly about to burst, but no food wasted. Over dinner we met other guests, Guilliame, Beringere and 2 year old Clemence. They are farmers in Le Mans and were horrified that we had no close by accom when we went to the car race….and offered us accom next time This morning we headed back in to Bordeaux, one of my favourite French cities and stumbled into an Australian bar/cafe. It is complete with a swimming pool inhabited by a mechanical crocodile! Photos to come later

A house in the hill

Les Graviers, France

A very busy 24 hours. After the morning tea in Bordeaux – and Rick we did drive past the ‘mirror pool’ but didn’t stop, we headed to Geraldine’s brother’s new restaurant. It is this one

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Le-Bistr ot-Chez-Louis/1561071870839896

They were quite busy and so we only had a quick chat – but the food was fabulous. See the pics

Now today (Wednesday) we had to headed to Tours for nine days with Marvin and Linda. It meant brekky and gone by 830am…a quick goodbye to Veronique (I missed Pierre) and we were underway. It was a v easy drive of just over 300kms, much on newly surfaced roads at 130kmph+

We ‘checked in’ with Marie-Noelle to our gorgeous house in a hill and then were due to meet the TGV in Tours. Marie-Noelle told us that it is much easier to collect them one stop earlier…quick call and all sorted.

Back to drop their bags, a few loads of washing and our team debut on the Delroy quiz. It had been so long that Tony’s assistant asked for clarification when I said “Gary from France”..he said “Is that France near England?” He then did the right thing, put us on first and played an intro sting of ‘the marseilles’. We got a few right but then stumbled and fell

Off to town for a trip to the tourist office..then markets..food shopping and dinner. Hmm that was an adventure. Firstly a big chunk of town was closed due to a big fire happening before our eyes. I disobeyed my own rules and went to check out why the police were everywhere – but it was quickly obvious it was a serious fire with smoke billowing from an apartment block and we left the area

A champagne stop and then on to somewhere Marvin had found on the web. The reviews were great and it was towards the car. We finally arrived and it was ‘complet’…chocko…full

Oh well we can find one closer to the car..no joy….oh well maybe on the journey home…no joy….oh well have lots of cheese, lets buy some bread at the supermarket…its closed.

Look at that Asian Wok place – perfect. Well not perfect but by far the best option

Time to climb the tricky stairs to bed

Day one of Chateau binge ahead

Les Graviers, France

So we are in the Loire Valley with so many chateaux to visit..where do we start?? First thing first – a sleep in and leisurely breakfast. HiHo and I headed off early to find some croissants / baguettes but walked into a mess. I arrived into a local shop to find a longish queue and two shop assistants trying to get the till open. Then the owner came and no success. By now there were harsh words exchanged and the junior girl was now in tears, the queue was getting longer and more irritated.

The boss went out the back and found a calculator…we are going manual. Half way through the first customer and the till has rebooted and bing, its alive again. I’m served and decided not to say that my cafe au lait is an espresso..drink and run

We started at Villandry Chateau..wow amazing and it is privately owned. Has been in one family since early 1900’s and although the Chateau is great…the gardens are magnificent. After a couple of hours working / walking hard, we take a break for an ice cream. Life is so tough

A quick stop in town to get a new SIM card for my Orange device (thinking of Ian Mc / Katy) and then home to eat our cheese / pate dinner with red wine.

Some planning for next few days is done..almost time for bed…but the sun is still up even though it is nearly 930pm…damn missed Tony D tonight

Weekly update – Spain then on to wine and chateaux

Les Graviers, France

What have we done this week..I’ve just scanned the diary and last Saturday we were in Santiago de Compostella and since then we’ve driven to Santander then on to Bordeaux / Blaye then on to Tours / St Avertin.

And we met up with our first visitors of the trip – Marvin and Linda

During the week we have managed churches, museums, chateaux and had many great meals / wines.

Not a bad week

Let me firstly tell you about yesterday. We are staying in the Loire Valley which is the centre of chateaux…our tour planner (with some local assistance from our host and the local tourist bureau) decided we should head to the far away places first, leaving the close ones for later days. So we headed off on an hours drive to Chambord. This was a hunting shack that was built in the 1500’s and is a fair size – 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 84 staircases. I couldn’t imagine how you’d keep the wood supply going to feed the fireplaces!! It is massive and also a wild mixture of styles…a bit cold and over the top

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2te au_de_Chambord

After a simple lunch – just a sandwich today – we altered our plans and went to Chinonceau Chateau for our afternoon stroll. Where the morning chateau was a bit brash, this was classy. I could imagine living here…still more than big enough room and some amazing floral displays. Full history here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2te au_de_Chenonceau

Since we’d been good for lunch we headed out to a local mussel place for dinner (called La pêche aux moules) – superb. Thanks Marie-Noelle

Earlier in the week we met some v friendly people in Blaye and found a brash aussie bar in Bordeaux

We had lunch at Geraldine’s brother’s restaurant before making it to our special accommodation here in St Avertin. Marie-Noelle has made us feel most welcome in our lovely house and we managed a trip to Villandry on Thursday

Somewhere along the way we managed to have our team debut on Delroy quiz in oz…got a few right and had a good chat to Tony

Off to a wine festival and markets in Tours today…life is tough


A day in town – wine festival and more


A day in town – wine festival and more
Tours, France

Tours, France

Saturday was a lazy start and then we headed into Tours central, for a visit to the wine festival and town walk.

We had some slight deviations, to Orange for phone top ups, to an Australian Geographic type shop and some women’s fashion shops…all essential.

Coffee / toilet stop and then on to the wine festival

A bit like oz, you pay a nominal fee for a glass (5 euro) and then it is unlimited wine tasting. We paced ourselves nicely, tried a number and then headed to the lunch area. That was less well organised and pretty crowded…but we had sufficient

Further walking to the local cathedral…an amazing assortment of stain glassed windows and an stunning organ…well worth the visit.

Its now late afternoon and we have to make that big decision – what will we do for dinner. I go to get the car while the others head to the market area to get a quiche and some salad. By the time I find them, they have bought champagne and white wine..and abandoned dinner at home. We found a fabulous square in the old part of town. Had a great meal – and home by 830pm…time for an early night


Amboise – massive market, quaint town & chateau


Amboise – massive market, quaint town & chateau
Amboise, France

Amboise, France

Sunday morning and we start with two shocks

1. The car is very wet, it has been raining and looks like more rain coming
2. We have some croissants and a baguette on our door step – many thanks to our host Marie-Noelle

Time to watch the first quarter of the Eagles match before we head off to Amboise. Luckily I know someone who supports the Swans who has an annual overseas subscription. Go Eagles!!!

Amboise is only about 20 minutes away – en route we wash the car – now it is certain to rain. We arrive and the plan is …some time at the weekly market, on to the Leonardo da Vinci “museum” and then on to the Chateau de Amboise.

Plans are flexible in our world – the market is massive. A short stroll past each stall takes over 2 hours and each of us makes at least one strategic purchase, some more than one. There were coloured cheeses, pearl jewelry, clothes, fruit and veg, roast chicken, knives…..

As we complete our first mission the rain looks threatening and so the Tour Master explains that we are now headed to the Chateau as it is under cover from the impending rain. The Chateau was lovely. More amazing floral displays, some beautiful furniture and lots of chairs for weary travellers to rest their tired feet. It is also the burial place of Leonardo d V

Next stop was lunch – I had a great Coq au Vin

At this point the Tour Director decided that extreme fatigue had descended upon the tour group and that we should head home for an afternoon siesta – although at 4:15pm, it was a little late for an afternoon siesta.

Whilst some rested I scaled the hill at our estate to visit the chapel and then a short walk to see our local river…then home for dinner