Archive for September, 2023

signs of autumn

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Definite signs of autumn driving down the back lane into the village this morning. The occasional brown leaf appearing and undergrowth starting to die back in the hedgerows. The harvest seems also to be pretty much over around the Manoir.  I like the good feeling that comes with the ease into autumn. Still very much a warm sunny day in prospect though and the pool will very much be on the agenda.

Went into Montaigu this morning really just to buy milk for breakfast. THG then requested fruit and a variety of other bread based requests came in via whatsapp. Sfine. Only problem was I was there half an hour before InterMarche opened! Everything else could be procured in artisanal and organic shops on the main street but not the milk!!!

Fulfilled all the requests and had to sit in the car waiting for my milk.

Last night we ‘hit the town’. Couple of beers at Cafe du Centre in Roquecor followed by dinner at L’Artichaut back in Montaigu de Quercy. All in all a v pleasant evening. Back in time to watch the rugby were it not for the fact that we couldn’t immediately get the tv to work in the main house. I didn’t stay the pace, partly down to the large glass of calvados, and hit the hay earlyish.

Walking to the bar in Roquecor we saw dozens, hundreds even, of conkers lying on the ground. They seem to be rampant in this part of the world. No sign of anyone picking them up as would be the case in the UK. Conker paradise.

pheasant in the lane

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

This morning’s wildlife sighting was a pheasant in the lane. I was on the way back from fetching the croissants and there it was in all its colourful splendour. The bread came from Chez Domy as recommended by Richard the caretaker. A good decision. The pain au raisins were huge.

Another red hot day in prospect. We have apparently been blessed with the weather. According to Brooke, last night’s chef, by this time in September it normally starts to cool. I don’t spend time in the sun unless it is in the pool.

The group splits up today with half headed to Toulouse for the night to watch Japan v Samoa. A late start that has occasioned an AirBnB for the night. Those left in the Manoir are off out to dinner locally. A couple of sherberts in the bar in Roquecor followed by nosh at L’Artichaut. Both highly recommended by those who know.

the joys of rural France

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

One of the joys of rural France is the ample supply of free open air parking in the towns we have been visiting. Villages really. None of the stress associated with parking in cities where vehicle height restrictions and complex pay and display machines rule the roost. The pay and display machines are no different to those in the UK really when it comes to complexity and difficulty of use.

One bemusing aspect of travelling in France has been the use of English language options when it comes to purchasing things, be they online or at a machine. Quite often only some of the screens have English text and revert into French for some parts of the transaction. This has not caused a problem, yet, but it does raise a smile.

This morning I experienced another issue. On the boulangerie run this morning to pick up the croissants a taxi pulled up in front of the shop. I cadged a business card off the driver and then realised I might as well see if he was free tomorrow evening for our jaunt into the village to dine at L’Artichaut. He told me I needed to ring the office as he didn’t manage the bookings.

Fair enough I thought though the alarm bells should have rung. I only just managed to understand him because of his deep regional French accent. Back at the Manoir I called the office but had to give up as without being there face to face I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. A bit like a Frenchman trying to understand Rab C Nesbitt.

Instead I messaged the caretaker to ask if he would enquire for me. It would be useful to at least know how much the fare would be before booking.

Caretaker got back to me. Apaz the taxi company people are on holiday and I was talking to a recorded message. Doh!!!

jaunt to Montcuq

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Sat in our huge living room at le Manoir. It is one of three. None of them get used. Outdoor living innit. It is light out. I made the tea at seven thirty and figured I’d nip to Intermarche in Montaigu de Quercy to pick up some bread, specifically for toasting but checked and it doesn’t open until nine. Figured I’d have a toasted bacon sandwich for breakfast plus maybs toast and marmalade. Simple things in life. See how it goes.

MdQ is seriously in the middle of nowhere. We are surrounded by fields for miles around. Self sufficiency is largely the name of the game. MdQ itself is five kilometres down the back road out of the manoir.

Bit of a jaunt to Montcuq today. Not much there. A few shops and caffs. Bought a case of different red wines of the region. All medoc, this being Cahors. For taking home not consuming here.

Had a coffee at Le Rocking Horse followed by lunch at Cafe du Centre. The place was rocking with aged expats. Not sure what sort of a life they have out here. It almost felt as if they were withering on the vine.

On the way back we spotted a sign for “Truffes Noires de Montcuq”. I’d noted earlier whilst perusing the area on Google maps and looked it up. Decided it wasn’t worth a special trip to visit, if only because black truffles are expensive and we don’t use them in cooking at home. So when we passed the sign I turned around in a farm track and went to explore. 

When we arrived all it was was a sign outside someone’s private house with a pool and deckchairs. A bloke appeared through some sliding doors. He was on the phone but waved. I took a snap decision to abort the visit and turned around as he started to walk across the lawn to where we had pulled up. Didn’t seem worth getting into a conversation.

Then we passed a sign for the Ecole de Parachutisme de Bouloc. Another place of interest on Google maps. We didn’t find that but with hindsight it does explain the sighting of the occasional light aircraft above Le Manoir.

Back at the ranch we discovered that the sunflower field behind the house had been harvested during our absence. Good job I’d cut a single plant myself when we set off on our trip. Thought we might as well plant some back in Lincoln and see how they get on.

The next challenge is to go and fetch some more red wine! We apparently drank the six bottles purchased yesterday.

Manoir Sunday

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

Bit of a chill in the air this morning as I went to collect the croissants. Found an artisanale boulangerie in Montaigu de Quercy. I suspect most of them are labelled “artisanale” Missed it the first time I drove past and found myself out of the village before I knew it. Was only a small gaff. Quite pleased that the entire conversation with the woman behind the counter was conducted in French.

The annual bike and booze day was starting in Montaigu. There is a 30km route with a stop every ten clicks for wine, cheese and sausage. Also a shorter route for walkers. The road past village hall was bustling with bikers and walkers setting off on their jaunt.

An eight am start precluded participation by any of our touring party. The thirty kilometres would also have put most of us off. Everyone had the right gear.

I took the back road out of the Manoir. Just a track really. Had to lower the suspension on the defender as the hedging on either side arched quite low forming a tunnel over the track..

The walls in this place are almost a metre thick. They have fttp and a mesh wireless network so the internet connectivity is great. Our room however, thanks to the thickness of the masonry, gets practically no signal.

Later a jaunt to the Sunday market in Roqecourt. A small affair. Three of us blokes decided fairly quickly that the best way to ‘do’ the market was to sit in the cafe on the square in front of the church and leave the sheilas to it. Didn’t take long for them to latch on to the fact and join us. Cafe, cafe au lait, cappucino, Perrier, the. That was tea. Couldn’t get the accent to appear for the French word.

The market stalls were all local traders. One or two smallholders selling fruit and veg. THG bought a couple of butternut squashes to take home. The tomatoes were huge.

Now sat around the pool. There is a perfect shaded bit. This manoir is as luxurious as it gets.

chateau de creissels

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Sat on our terrace looking up at Eglise Saint Julien, Creissels. There is a freshness to the morning here in the mountains. We are located in Parc naturel regionale des Grands Causses. Last hotel stay for a while.

Lovely dinner last night fair play. Bit of banter with some of the locals on other tables in the restaurant. We had a table booked for 7pm and were the only ones there for a while. Then an English couple turned up but the room didn’t really fill up until eight when the locals began to appear. We like to eat early and get up early.

The conversation will be mostly in English for the next week as we home in with some pals on the Manoir we have booked for a week. Everyone coming in independently from different directions. I’ve been getting on fine in French but it is sometimes hard going (shrugs shoulders). 

Happy to endorse Hotel Chateau De Creissels. Room great, food great. Didn’t have a bar but the receptionist brought my beer to the lounge where I was sat watching le rugby.


Great day out at the rugby

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Great day out at the rugby. Met Guy and his pals at noon as arranged. Game started at five forty five so a bit of a liquid warm up seemed appropriate. Amazingly, apart from an initial difficulty finding the tram, everything ran like clockwork.

At the stadium the queues were fairly minimal helped, probs, by our early arrival and the service at the bar seemed to have improved. This time they had separate people pouring the beers and serving the punters.

The remainder of our touring party arrived just before the start having come by taxi. An element of ‘tour fatigue’ is beginning to show. We will all benefit from the week at the Manoir that starts on Saturday.

Apparently there was heavy rain and thunder overnight. I heard none of it. The deep sleep of the just 🙂. This morning the rain had morphed to a very gentle drizzle which was most refreshing on my short stroll to the snack bar to pick up the bread. Deux croissants et une baguette merci. Oh et un cafe, longue. Pierre does a good coffee fair play. I assume that is his name. 

D’aujourd hui we will be recovering from yesterday, sorting out the chalet and packing for the next leg of our trip. A walk to the (pebble) beach is in prospect and maybe, dare I say it, even a paddle in the Med. After all we’ve come all this way…

We did swim in the med at Cassis. Feels like a long time ago now but it was only last Thursday. One week. It’s going to rain off and on all day today but we may well swing by the pool. It has a covered area that I have been using to stay out of the sun but today it can keep the rain off. Doesn’t matter if it is raining once in the pool.

I remember a family holiday to Brittany perhaps fifteen years ago. It rained twelve days out of fourteen. One day looked to be a bit brighter so I bought a load of snorkelling gear and we hit the beach. The boys all went snorkelling and the girls sat on the beach. 

After half an hour or so I looked up. It had started to rain and the beach was deserted except for Anne and Hannah huddled under an umbrella waiting patiently for us. We hadn’t noticed the rain. I can still picture the scene.

Some of the others in our group have started wending their way in the general direction of Montaigu de Quercy. It is around 650km from Nice so a fair old distance. Our plan is to drive around two thirds of the way tomorrow. We’ve booked into a nice gaff for the night. 

To a large extent we are retracing the steps coming here from Toulouse for which we took a relaxing 5 days. Some are visiting the places we stopped at. Avignon for one. Makes a lorra sense to me. I expect that someday they will get around to finishing that bridge at Avignon. Must have run out of budget. Or the builder went bust, or similar.

We did toy with the idea of leaving Nice today but figured we had already seen a lot of the places en route and that some downtime would do us good.

Right, breakfast beckons. Croissant anyone?

Rain has started again. The heavy rain which can be quite pleasant when observed from the covered deck outside the chalet. A river of water is running down the road. A plane flies by on its descent into Nice airport, nobbut six clicks away.

Very much a mooching morning 🙂Popped in to reception to ask if we could check out a little later tomorrow as I have a meeting at 9.30am whereas they want us out by nine. Hadn’t quite factored that into my planning. The receptionist needs to discuss with ‘the manager’ so I have to  pop back after lunch.

After six days at this site we’ve just spotted that the birds making the racket outside our chalet are green parakeets. Gosh.

As the sun creeps inevitably over the yardarm at La Vieille Ferme Camping it has started to rain. Again. It has not yet resulted in the river flowing fast by the deck of chalet C1A but it may yet do so.

I have, as a result, been discouraged from a visit to the bar and am instead helping to empty the fridge by consuming the gin and tonic resident within. Formerly resident.

The river has started as I write. Doesn’t take long here in the Tropic of Provence. The parakeets that frequent the trees around the chalet have stopped squawking. Presumably keeping their heads down.

The defender sits squarely on the drive in front of the chalet. Feels totally at home in the rain.

Two people walk separately past the chalet. A young woman strides confidently up the hill. A man, probs about my age, maybs a little less, walked a more tentatively with what looked like a table tennis bat. There is a ping pong table uo there. They both just scampered back down. Rain must have started again although I didn’t really notice that it had stopped.

On the main road I hear a siren. Feels as if we are cocooned from it all here in the campsite. Live goes on. Births, deaths. Here the main decision is when to eat dinner. I am somewhat governed by THG who has a very high metabolic rate due to her exercise regime. THG is an amazingly fit woman. I am proud to be married to her.

It’s been a wonderful week in the south of France. We would come again at this time of year but probably opt for a villa. The idea of staying in a campsite was so that we could be with our motorhoming pals. Unfortunately the crazy rush to book accommodation for the Rugby World Cup resulted in us having to stay in separate sites. The ones we identified as target sites booked up very quickly.

Funnily enough we haven’t really seen that many rugby tourists here. Maybe this is just a popular site full stop.

rugby day ahead

Wednesday, September 20th, 2023


Another rugby day ahead after a day doing the tourist thing in Nice yesterday. We’ve done Nice now and the spare day tomorrow which was being held back in case there was more we wanted to see can now be used for relaxation, a bit of swimming and tidying up in anticipation of a long day’s travel on Friday.

The campsite wants us out by 9am on the last day with is a bit of a challenge knowing what time we’ve been getting up so pretty much all tidying and packing needs to be done the day before. Slightly annoying that I have a conference call at 9.30 am. In my mind I’d have had that call before heading off. Some negotiation may be necessary.

We will be glad to leave the campsite and its tiny chalet bedroom with low bed and not much space to maneuvre. La Vieille Ferme is a nice enough site. It just ain’t particularly luxurious but we don’t expect that. It’s served a purpose.

So the plan for today is to meet @Guy Osborne at Van Diemen’s Australian pub at noonish and head to the ground around three. The others in the group look like meeting us at the ground. Our last bus back from the airport (via tram) is at nine forty five pm which should give us enough time to get there from the ground. Game starts ast five forty five.

This has been such a full on trip it was easy for us to decide to stay on until Friday even though our last timetabled event, the Italy v Uruguay game, is tonight. The next week is going to be spent in extreme levels of comfort at a manoir deep in the heart of the French countryside. The touring party will I think appreciate the downtime.

il pleut

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Il pleut overnight ici. Could hear it on the roof of our chalet. Rain is forecast for most of today. We are having a pottering around morning in which a visit to Intermarche is planned and I will be doing some (a limited amount) of work.

For this afternoon a tourist trip to Nice is planned. A walk around Vieille Nice etc. Anything to squeeze the max value out of my Lignes d’Azur 7 day pass for which I paid twenty Euros but then found it was no use on the bus and train services serving our campsite.

sunny side of the street

Sunday, September 17th, 2023

I get why people like to walk on the sunny side of the street. I, however, am very much a walk in the shade. Person. I do not have blues on parade though. My outlook is sunny. It is simply that I fear the sun.

When I sit outside a bar, in a harbour on the cote d’Azur maybe I like to sit in the shade. I like my beer tall, cold and refreshing and the service to be quick. Better to order the next before finishing the one in front of you.

I like the conversation to be convivial with a thread of wit but don’t mind occasionally sitting alone enjoying my own company.

Cassis dawn

Friday, September 15th, 2023

Ten past seven. Cassis dawn. A red glow on the Mediterranean horizon. Worker hurries into the hotel below me. My breakfast needs preparing. Sounds of shifting beer barrels. Gentle breeze rustles the surface of the water in the harbour, shimmering in the early morning light. Two white vans and two cars drive lights on along the quay in front of Bar Mistral.

Comfortable enough drive from Cassis to Nice despite the Bip&Go not working at one of the peages and a big accident holding everyone up for a while as three lanes merged into one. Could have been worse. Sat nav lost the plot a bit around some complicated roundabouts near our destination but we are glad now to have abandoned the car for a while, save the occasional supermarche run.

All is quiet in the chalet after a very pleasant light lunch in which I consumed some duck liver pate with a tomato and bread. We shall shortly make our way to the pool which is nobbut 60m away.

Tonight’s plan is a quiet night in. There may be rugby on the TV in the snack bar. I’m assuming there is a TV though not seen one 🙂

There is abundant public transport here. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need to use it to go to Nice as a taxi would seem to be far quicker and easier, assuming we are able to find one. We are less than twenty minutes by car from the Allianz stadium but by public transport it is more like an hour. Coming back the likelihood of finding a cab seems pretty remote. Thirty thousand other rugby fans will be looking for the same thing.

We are in our chalet watching the rugby with the BBC radio commentary. The radio is almost a minute behind but it is better to have it that way than the inane French commentary. They get excited at the slightest thing and are mostly boring. Ok I realise this is not very politically correct but it is what it is. 

Our touring party are currently somewhat dispersed. One lot are in an AirBnB on the Promenade des Anglais. Three are in their own campsite on the other side of Nice. We assume this to be the case. Radio silence is being observed. There were no more MoHo slots in this, our preferred choice site. Went in a flash. Ah well.

Tomorrow morning we have bacon. It is French bacon. Almost certainly rubbish but we have to give it a go. I realise that the enlightened amongst you will be saying that I should not pass judgement before trying the bacon but I speak with great experience. Even in the UK there is a lot of crap bacon. Almost any bacon sourced from a supermarket, for example.

Having now settled into our chalet it must be observed that several items appear to be missing after our two weeks of itinerant existence. Firstly my copy of the Band of Brothers book. Could have sworn it put it in my duffel bag but no that would appear not to be the case.

Secondly there were around six bottles of Kronenbourg 1664 somewhere to be had. Posh ones. They must be in the same bag as the book. Bit annoying, especially if I’ve left them behind somewhere. They are all replaceable. This is not a life or death sitch. Annoying all the same.

I have three bottles of particularly fine eau de vie in the boot. Calvados, armagnac and cognac. I am planning a taste test next week when we all converge on the Manoir. That’s after Nice. Eight days hence. The input from the guy in the shop who sold me it is that the bottles need to be kept in the fridge. None of this room temperature stuff. Some of them are at cask strength. The cognac is a blend with 70% dating back to 1990 and some as far back as 1926. Rare grapes. We will enjoy it I’m sure.

Tomorrow we are off to see Wales v Portugal. First a lunch is planned with our old friends @David Hopinks and @Cecile Hopkins. V excited to see them. The game is not until five forty five so a leisurely lunch in prospect followed by a few beers and rugby. More anon…

Aix en Provence

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

There is a slight freshness to the morning here in vieille Aix. I am sat on our terrace watching a builder opposite do his preparations for the day on some scaffolding. I’m going to call him Jean Pierre but he will not feature further in this post so it doesn’t really matter.

V pleasant evening. I had a couple of sherberts around the corner in O’Sullivans whilst THG went for a stroll and did the sights on behalf of the two of us. WHilst she was away I discovered that Aix en Provence’s top rate curry house was just around the corner and it was to Le Maharaja we went.

The Maharaja was fairly empty at seven fifteen but the good sign was that the other occupied tables were populated with people of clearly sub-continental heritage. I had a simple lamb madras with pilau rice, a plain naan and a bottle of kingfisher.

We were early heading back to the hotel but were content with the prospect of a couple of cans of Punk IPA from Monoprix whilst sat on the terrace outside our room. Only had one of them before dozing off.

Looks like they are rerendering the facade opposite. You can tell where they have already done it and slapped on some yellow paint in keeping with the style of the old town.

Right, off to breakfast. I have a conf call at oh nine thirty.

Breakfast wasn’t much cop btw. The receptionist took the oomph when I asked her for a cereal bowl for breakfast. All they had out were tiny ones for putting jam in. She brought three out! One for me, one for an American woman who had been standing around wondering how to go about getting a bowl and one other in case anyone else was daft enough to want one.

When I tried filling the milk jug with hot milk from the machine it wouldn’t fit under the dispenser so most of the milk went all over the place. Huh.

Cassis this morning. It is a forty nine minute drive. An hour if we go the long way around. Will be nice to get there and be able to chill for a bit. I’ve booked a parking space at the back of the hotel. Hopefully will be ok. They don’t have many spots and I’m not that confident in the hotel booking system. When I booked, sometime last winter, the hotel was closed and the response times weren’t world class. The English version of the booking system didn’t seem to have what I needed to book the parking slot.

This is a pretty basic room but the hotel is in position A in Cassis. The balcony is just big enough for one person. There seem to be fewer people out than earlier when they all poured into the port for lunch. Probably all home sleeping off lunch before starting again this evening. Makes sense to wait for the heat of the day to subside before a night out.


Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Disabled guy with no right hand sat alone in his motorised wheelchair on Place L’Horloge watching the world go by. Wonder what his story is. The restaurants around the square were all lit up. Tourists out on the town. Probs didn’t notice or see him

We are back in the room/terrace. Half a bottle of Cotes du Rhone yet to be consumed. You will be pleased to know that the insect bite soothing gel purchased in the pharmacy seems to have worked. That was one of those emergency situations where I might have scratched meself to death trying to relieve the itch.

We are enjoying Avignon. The deeper we get into this trip the less we feel we need to delve into the local sights to any significant degree. Today we did the Palais des Papes from the outside. Sfine. I’ve seen a lot of mediaeval buildings and recently watched a French documentary on this particular place.

For tomorrow night (Aix) we are going to do our restaurant research in advance. The one we liked the look of today had no availability. Obvs really. The good gaffs get booked up. Thing is I don’t want to have the whole trip planned in micro-detail. Although when there are ten or twelve of you it doesn’t do any harm.

Most people out and about are tourists. A few locals earlier. Mediterranean complexions a lot of them. We aren’t really that far from the coast. We were back in our room by about eight thirty. 

We have two more hotel nights before the campsite in Nice where we will spend a week. Get some laundry done 🙂Weather still v warm.

Most people we saw this afternoon were sitting down somewhere. Too hot to walk around. Nowt wrong with that. We sat for forty five minutes on the road train ‘doing Avignon’. After a while I stopped listening to the commentary – English on channel 2. Just more of the same. At least we saw the pont.

Seen it before. Hitch hiked to Avignon in nineteen eighty two. Caught the train home.

Aix ain’t so far from here so en route we have decided to do Arles and the Camargue. Bit of a result really. In a bit…


Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

It is Tuesday. I know because I looked it up. We left Carcassonne behind.

Carcassonne was a great experience. Great hotel, highly convenient location with onsite parking and no height restriction 🙂I’ll be leaving a very good review. Great breakfast and great room. Note frequent use of the word ‘great’. This is specifically done for the American market. I could have thrown in the occasional ‘awesome’ but there are limits. One high point of the hotel was meeting Rhodri and Rhian Morgan in the bar. Parents of Jac. Say no more.

The restaurant ‘Ramparts’ had a good atmosphere but the food was v puer. I don’t leave bad reviews but I’m telling you lot anyway.

We headed into the relatively newer bit of Carcassonne to a kitchen shop called La Ferme. Hannah Davies pointed us there. Top class gaff. A number of items were purchased including two very fine bottles of Armagnac and Cognac. The advice is to keep these in the fridge. They are being saved for the fourth week of the trip when we all get together in a manoir near Montaigu de Quercy.

So now we are in Avignon at Hotel L’Horloge which is slap bang in the centre and a short stroll from Palais des Papes and le pont. A little downtime is being taken outside on our rooftop patio. You can get used to rooftop patios.

The one revelation on this trip is the paucity of decent parking in towns in France. By this I mean parking for a car of height 1.967m or 1.927m with the height lowered. Had I been aware of this before the trip I would have planned our itinerary differently. However we are where we are. It takes too long to redo with new hotels plus it would be more expensive st this late stage of the game.

It’s ok. After the Toulouse experience we have reverted to (free) airport parking in Avignon. This is actually quite good. Not too far out of town and sitting in the taxi on the way in made me glad I wasn’t driving. Very very glad. 

Thassitfornow. Need to pop out to take a few hundred more pics.

movin on

Monday, September 11th, 2023

Toulouse was great. Now we move on to Carcassonne. It will be interesting to compare activity levels. How many rugby followers will be in town. No games for a few days.

We move on somewhat exhausted at the full on nature of the weekend. Unlikely to be a totally relaxing week with a different hotel and town every night. Our objective is to arrive in Nice for Friday where we will be staying put for a week.

Afore we go I have to nip out for the usual bread run and I am currently say outside on the deck being able now to identify some of the visible sights, having been to see them. Notable are Couvent des Jacobins and the Basilica. The latter is a classic mediaeval cathedral the building of which was begun in 1080AD (almost went for CE there to be playful) on the site of a fifth century church. The first bishop of Toulouse, Saturnin, was martyred in 250AD so there is considerable history associated with the place.

Our biggest unknown for today is how quickly we can bag an Uber as you may recall the car is parked at the airport Hilton. See how it goes.