Cappadocia

I took so many photos here. The landscape is huge and extraordinary. Geologically and historically it is an incredible place. Mostly made of tufa, volcanic sediment which is quite soft. There is a similarity to the Grand Canyon but that is sandstone, which is harder. Going back thousands of years people have dug into the cone shaped protuberances to make cave houses. Higher in the cliffs they have cut out pigeon holes for the pigeons to nest in. Whereas in Morocco pigeon poo was valuable for softening leather, here it is used for many things but the eggs were most valuable, for binding building materials and for mixing with natural rock colours for painting.

It looks as though roofs have been put onto these dwellings but it is a natural rock formation. The mostly basalt that was laid on top of the tufa has weathered more slowly to give this roof top appearance.

We were able to clamber about on many of the cave formations.

This is a good example of the fresco paintings that were done in the many churches that were built into the caves and underground. A layer of plaster covers the rock for painting, rather than painting directly onto the rock walls.

Walking along beside a river bed, these cliffs rose all around us, and all full of little cave houses.

There were restaurants actually in the river!

You can see the pigeon holes in this rock.

 

 

 

This was from inside a church. The caves were used by Christians we were told in the days of Roman persecution. Also the underground cities. We went down into one. It was big enough to take a couple of thousand people but then by some accounts up to 30,000 people. There were tunnels between one city and another and there are 36 such cities. Whether most are closed, or whether only some have been excavated I couldn't find out. Whilst it is known that they were used by the Christians it seems that they were built before that. Used by the Hittites who lived here?

 

The evil eye is sold around here for good luck. Here is an evil eye tree. One Turk told me that I don't need it as I have blue eyes. Another told me that i am unlucky myself for having blue eyes.

The camels here are well equipped for the freezing desert nights.

 

 

 

 

I was busy snapping sunset photos in this weird and wonderful landscape when a couple came along to have photos taken for their wedding album. What a setting!

 
Don and I out on that rock.
 

We ended our day with dinner at Dibek, a very smart restaurant with a great wine collection. We sat on cushions with big rug bolsters behind us and our feet out under the table. It was very relaxing, and great Turkish wine!

 

KASBAH TAMADOT

We stayed at the Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains. It is a luxury resort owned by Richard Branson. It employs 100 people from the area, which has made a big difference to the standard of living of some of the surrounding villages. Not only through employment but through the generosity of some of the guests who have wanted to help the locals.

We went for a mule trek for a couple of hours. Our guide was Mohamed. He has met a lot of people, including Jimmy Carter. He showed us photos of himself with various guests of the Kasbah. He has five daughters and in this culture that is not a good thing as they will leave to live with their husbands' families when they get married. His 17 year old daughter married recently and was given various household goods by one of his clients. Another daughter is having financial help for her schooling.

This is Mohamed's house. He invited us in and served us mint tea.

 

I had a turn at pouring.

 

The Kasbah was luxurious, with no expense spared. I think this chandelier in our 'tent' says it all.
We stayed for 3 nights and for the first two it snowed on the peaks. The rainy season is a month late. Trucks are driving along the dry river bed collecting rocks for building materials.

 

The completely dry river bed.

 

Up close and personal with a camel. He is for decoration here and has an easy life.
In the wonderful heated pool.

 

Don on the rooftop.

We caught a taxi back to the station and our driver told us the story of his life. He is an ambitious man, putting off marriage until he can buy his own cab. At the age of 7 he convinced his father to let him go to school, which was a 2 km walk from home. At the age of 10 he learnt that the then owner of the Kasbah might help him if he asked. He asked for a bicycle to get to school. He was told to turn up for a gardening job in the school holidays. He was given a wage but also a bike that was the envy of his peers. His father was making a living illegally, cutting down trees for charcoal which he would take to Marrakesh at night to sell. His working life before that was farming, which he started at the age of 10. Now 57 he is cared for by our driver who pays also for his mother, his divorced sister and her daughter and for his 2 younger brothers, of whom the older one will soon be able to help financially. Our driver filled us in also on the climate of optimism in Morocco. Mohamed 6 has brought in many reforms. Modern trains and new roads. Tourism is being encouraged. The very wealthy here have always owned everything and been exempt from taxes. Now they are being made to pay, and retrospectively as well. They are being threatened with gaol if they refuse.

We saw in India how the old rajahs have had to turn their palaces and havelis into hotels. In Britain the peerage long ago turned their mansions into B&Bs. To get ahead the wealth must be shared.

Of course our driver did not neglect to tell us that in his line of work now he was prepared to be paid less than when he worked as a waiter because the opportunities were there to make more by learning English and providing good service. He did the latter by speeding through the crazy traffic to get us to the train station on time and rushing our bags to the platform for us, as well as by being such an informative fellow. We gave him a good tip.

 

Marrakesh railway station.

 

 

FEZ

 

We took a grande taxi to Fez, passing well tended fields along the way….

 

and lots of olive trees.

 

Arriving in Fez.

 

 

Checking into the Riad Salama.

 

The door to our private balcony.

 

In no time we were out sightseeing with our guide, Mahomed. These are the palace gates. Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco and Commander in Chief of the Royal Moroccan Army spends some time here and it is not open to the public. His main palace is in the capital of Rabat.

 

We were taken to the pottery and ceramics centre. The clay is fine and lead free, perfect for making cookware like tagines.

 

Can you guess what they use as fuel for the kilns?

Answer: Olive pits. Apparently they give an even slow burn.

One of the kilns.

 

An example of their most popular product. We saw large packages ready for shipping overseas, including one to Dural, NSW.

 

Unless you are on the main streets with all the shops, there is not much to look at in the alleyways of the medina. At times your shoulders touch the walls on either side of you. There are 13,000 alleyways in the Medina of Fez. As our guide Mohamed says, the outside of the houses are very plain so as not to arouse the jealousy of one's neighbours. The wealthy are protected by huge locked gates. As with the riad that we stayed at, once inside you enter a small protected paradise. Beautiful, but Don and I found it a bit claustrophobic. Paradise or fortress? At least there was no need for the armed guards that protect many houses in India.

Once outside one's private sanctuary one steps into streets littered with rubbish,manure, stray cats and beggars who have never had dental or health care. We suffered culture shock on arrival in Tangiers and have spoken to other tourists about it. I can imagine now how the young man Siddhartha felt (according to the story of the early life of Buddha), after living behind palace walls all his life, when he first went outside. Culture shock in his own country!…leading to a search for enlightenment and an end to human suffering.

We saw some donkeys but the horse is the Mercedes of the Medina.

 

There used to be a rug market here. The ladies who wove the rugs would spread them on the ground and then modestly retire behind the wooden latticework on the overlooking balconies, where they could see anyone who came in and bargain with any would be buyers.

Unesco is doing great work in The Fez medina where many old buildings such as the one above have been heritage listed.

Below: This is inside a similar building that has already been restored to its former glory and is now the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts.

 
Next we were taken to the tanneries. The white vats are used first. The skins are soaked with pigeon poo.The leather is made from the skins of goats, cows, sheep and camels.

 

This man is cleaning the fur from the skins. We were lucky to be there on a cool day. The smell was not as bad as I had imagined it would be.

Below: I hadn't been planning on this purchase. We bought a soft black waistcoat for Don. Unfortunately when we got back to our riad we discovered that it had been swapped for a child size one. We are trying to be very alert all the time but they got one up on us this time.

 

To be given a tour of the city is to be taken to all the handicraft factories and shops. No obligation to buy but all due pressure will be brought to bear on you. Here you can see two very bored ladies. One is cracking open the seed pods of the argan tree while the other then grinds them for 3 hours to produce oil.This oil reputedly has wonderful cosmetic properties. I am now the proud owner of an expensive bottle of argan oil so I will be able to let you know how good it is.

The next day we passed by the shop and I took a picture of the owner, closest to camera, who waved back happily to me. The poster shows goats in the argan tree. I read a story on the plane to Morocco telling the story of how the goats climb into the trees to eat the nuts. The seeds, having passed through the goat are then ready for pressing, eliminating stage one of the process. Somebody once must have woken up one morning and thought, “I know, today I will collect goat's droppings and see if I can make a cosmetic oil from them” !!!

 

In this space I should be able to show you some beautiful Moroccan rugs. However I was afraid to even take a picture in case it indicated a desire on my part to buy. I can photograph some in the streets of the next medina I go to, which will be in Marrakesh.

Our tour is not yet over. Now we can see some cloth being woven. I was fascinated to learn that some of the cloth being produced was from the fibres of the aloe vera plant. All the dyes are from natural products as well. I bought some scarves in the end. Don unintentionally did some good bargaining here as we really did not intend to buy, certainly not at the prices they first quoted us!

 

This man is holding up the dried fibrous aloe vera plant leaf. I also learnt that he has only 3 children and thinks it would be too expensive to have any more. Our guide Mohamed had told us that children are an insurance for the future and that when you ask a Moroccan how many children he has he may reply “Only eight”. Apparently this does not apply in the medina where property and livelihood are handed down from one generation to the next. I had actually expected this man to be too young to have any yet.

 

I happened to peep through a door and see these little people hard at work learning the Koran by heart.

 

Outside the Clock Cafe, where we had lunch.

 

Inside the Clock Cafe.

 

Rooftops and satellite dishes.

 

FEZ

 

We took a grande taxi to Fez, passing well tended fields along the way….

 

and lots of olive trees.

 

Arriving in Fez.

 

 

Checking into the Riad Salama.

 

The door to our private balcony.

 

In no time we were out sightseeing with our guide, Mahomed. These are the palace gates. Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco and Commander in Chief of the Royal Moroccan Army spends some time here and it is not open to the public. His main palace is in the capital of Rabat.

 

We were taken to the pottery and ceramics centre. The clay is fine and lead free, perfect for making cookware like tagines.

 

Can you guess what they use as fuel for the kilns?

Answer: Olive pits. Apparently they give an even slow burn.

One of the kilns.

 

An example of their most popular product. We saw large packages ready for shipping overseas, including one to Dural, NSW.

 

Unless you are on the main streets with all the shops, there is not much to look at in the alleyways of the medina. At times your shoulders touch the walls on either side of you. There are 13,000 alleyways in the Medina of Fez. As our guide Mohamed says, the outside of the houses are very plain so as not to arouse the jealousy of one's neighbours. The wealthy are protected by huge locked gates. As with the riad that we stayed at, once inside you enter a small protected paradise. Beautiful, but Don and I found it a bit claustrophobic. Paradise or fortress? At least there was no need for the armed guards that protect many houses in India.

Once outside one's private sanctuary one steps into streets littered with rubbish,manure, stray cats and beggars who have never had dental or health care. We suffered culture shock on arrival in Tangiers and have spoken to other tourists about it. I can imagine now how the young man Siddhartha felt (according to the story of the early life of Buddha), after living behind palace walls all his life, when he first went outside. Culture shock in his own country!…leading to a search for enlightenment and an end to human suffering.

We saw some donkeys but the horse is the Mercedes of the Medina.

 

There used to be a rug market here. The ladies who wove the rugs would spread them on the ground and then modestly retire behind the wooden latticework on the overlooking balconies, where they could see anyone who came in and bargain with any would be buyers.

Unesco is doing great work in The Fez medina where many old buildings such as the one above have been heritage listed.

Below: This is inside a similar building that has already been restored to its former glory and is now the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts.

 
Next we were taken to the tanneries. The white vats are used first. The skins are soaked with pigeon poo.The leather is made from the skins of goats, cows, sheep and camels.

 

This man is cleaning the fur from the skins. We were lucky to be there on a cool day. The smell was not as bad as I had imagined it would be.

Below: I hadn't been planning on this purchase. We bought a soft black waistcoat for Don. Unfortunately when we got back to our riad we discovered that it had been swapped for a child size one. We are trying to be very alert all the time but they got one up on us this time.

 

To be given a tour of the city is to be taken to all the handicraft factories and shops. No obligation to buy but all due pressure will be brought to bear on you. Here you can see two very bored ladies. One is cracking open the seed pods of the argan tree while the other then grinds them for 3 hours to produce oil.This oil reputedly has wonderful cosmetic properties. I am now the proud owner of an expensive bottle of argan oil so I will be able to let you know how good it is.

The next day we passed by the shop and I took a picture of the owner, closest to camera, who waved back happily to me. The poster shows goats in the argan tree. I read a story on the plane to Morocco telling the story of how the goats climb into the trees to eat the nuts. The seeds, having passed through the goat are then ready for pressing, eliminating stage one of the process. Somebody once must have woken up one morning and thought, “I know, today I will collect goat's droppings and see if I can make a cosmetic oil from them” !!!

 

In this space I should be able to show you some beautiful Moroccan rugs. However I was afraid to even take a picture in case it indicated a desire on my part to buy. I can photograph some in the streets of the next medina I go to, which will be in Marrakesh.

Our tour is not yet over. Now we can see some cloth being woven. I was fascinated to learn that some of the cloth being produced was from the fibres of the aloe vera plant. All the dyes are from natural products as well. I bought some scarves in the end. Don unintentionally did some good bargaining here as we really did not intend to buy, certainly not at the prices they first quoted us!

 

This man is holding up the dried fibrous aloe vera plant leaf. I also learnt that he has only 3 children and thinks it would be too expensive to have any more. Our guide Mohamed had told us that children are an insurance for the future and that when you ask a Moroccan how many children he has he may reply “Only eight”. Apparently this does not apply in the medina where property and livelihood are handed down from one generation to the next. I had actually expected this man to be too young to have any yet.

 

I happened to peep through a door and see these little people hard at work learning the Koran by heart.

 

Outside the Clock Cafe, where we had lunch.

 

Inside the Clock Cafe.

 

Rooftops and satellite dishes.

 

CHEFCHAOUEN

 

Well known for its bluewashed walls. We have arrived at our riad Dar Echouen. On the other side of the gate is the garden. The mountains beyond give Chefchouen its name, “goat's horns”.

 

Our own little living room.
The bedroom

 

The medina of Chefchaouen seen from above the riad pool, where we have spent a couple of days chilling out.

 

I have succumbed to taking photos of doors. They are so picturesque- how can I help it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the medina. Around Place Auta Hammam.

 

 

Just inside the walls.
Walls of Al Kasibah (the kasbah -a privately owned fortress home)

 

 

In the garden of the kasbah.

 

 

Queen Al Sayyida. Her family owned the kasbah of Chefchaouen where she was raised after fleeing Granada with her parents when the Christian enemy in the form of Ferdinand and Isabella were victorious over the Muslims. When her first husband, 30 years her senior died, she became Queen and ruled for 30 years in the 15th century, also controlling the seas through piracy in revenge against her Christian enemies.

 

Perhaps she once sat and looked out from this tower.

 

A view of the mosque at sunset from a tower of the kasbah.

 

Another view from the tower.

 

See the rooftop above the arched windows in the lower left? Don has been searching for the rooftop where he spent a night with other young students (he says the term “backpacker” had not been coined yet, and indeed he did not have a backpack but a scruffy canvas bag and sleeping bag). He decided that this was the rooftop.

 

We went up to the rooftop and met the current owner who said that his father and grandfather before him have been operating this cafe. He was surprised that Don could remember the spot so well. It must have been one memorable night! He brought back a few memories for Don of how the square used to look with fewer tourist shops and the square being full of Berber merchants selling their rugs. He himself would have been about 5 years old when Don visited in 68.

 

On the edge of the medina wash houses have been constructed around the stream for the locals to do their washing.

 

 

More scenes inside the medina.

 

Sleeping during the day. Stray cats are everywhere, running under the tables in every cafe and restaurant that we've been in. They are all tiny.

 

 

 

 

Cobblestones at night.

 

Jamal in his Berber headgear. I enjoyed choosing a few things for the kids and having a chat with him.

 

We went for a couple of walks outside the medina walls. This well was being used but I didn't offer the lady enough money for her to let me take her photo. She unfortunately saw Don get his wallet out and got a bit greedy.

 

 

Donkeys are still necessary for transport.

 

 

Above the medina by the new city wall. Made it!

 

TANGIERS

 

Flying into Tangiers

 

 

New housing on the outskirts

 

Our room in the riad Dar Jameel

 

 

Views from the roof.

 

Me on the roof
Our smiling uniformed maid.
A beautiful chair in the riad. You can buy them in town. I want one.

 

Another view from the roof. In the bottom left hand corner you can see dad butchering the family's lamb. We arrived on a festival day (can you believe it, everything was closed!?). The festival was the day of butchering the lambs!

 

 

Here you can see the smoke from one of the many street barbecues going on. In the foreground the bones and other debris are left on the street. A feast for the many skinny street cats.
 
 
 

I found this cartoon in a little brochure. The misguided lamb is saying “He has remembered my birthday”

 

 

The cats had good scavenging on lamb bones the night before.

 

At the port we saw a sign indicating what will be alongside the pile of rubble of what is. To be fair the marina was well underway althouh we didn't see any pleasure craft or yachts.

 

Don spotted the camels on the beach. They were for the tourists to ride. No camels in the streets of Tangiers.

 

 

This looked like a hangman's gibbet. It had rings hanging on ropes and one evening we saw an athletic young man doing gymnastic training on them.

 

 

We found the the best restaurant in town in the El Minzah. The photos of many past illustrious guests were on the walls including Winston Churchill, Jean Van Damme and Yves St Laurent. I had a lamb tangine with prunes and crunchy almonds…delicious. The wine was grown in Mkenes in Morocco. It was a good cabernet sauvignon.

 

The band entertained us with violins, drums and oud.
 
 
 

We tried, on the three days that we were here to see what many guide books consider to be the main tourist attraction of Tangiers, which is the American Legation. Closed for the festival and then week end. Oh well. Thanks to Fran telling me of Paul Bowles, the American author and composer who lived here until his death in 1999, I was able to look online and see the wing dedicated to him at the legation and get a feel for the expat life of the colonial abroad in the Tangier of the 1940s to 1960s, something like that of the British in India. When Bowles settled in Tangier in 1947 it was still French Morocco. In Tangiers the local hash, kif, was much sought after and apparently it was a very gay, in the current sense of the word, scene. Don visited Morocco in the 60s and says he can vouch for the former but not sure about the latter. We have been offered kif on the street during this visit!

The other reason I wanted to see the American Legation is because of the interesting fact that Morocco was the first country in the world to recognise America as an independant country. The American Declaration of Independence was in 1776 and Morocco officially recognised America in 1777. Morocco was an independent kingdom at that time. it only came under French rule between 1912 and 1956, after which time the previous monarchy of Alaouit regained control of the country. I am still reading Gabaldon's Outlander series and am now up to the period of America's fight for independence and the sorts of battles that were being fought in the States between Republicans and Loyalists. Most settlers wanted to get on with their farming but the British administration was conscripting men to fight those rebels who objected to the taxes being imposed on the struggling colony. The rest of the world was waiting to see if the self styled “Americans” would lose to the British.

 

MADRID

 

The scenery changed on the trip from Barcelona to Madrid. The earth was red and the countryside more like central Australia.

 

On arrival at Madrid railway station, Estacion Atocha, we were met by two giant baby heads. I was impressed in Barcelona with the new Metro and by the trains in Spain.

 

We walked about on arrival and found Plaza Mayor, that Don remembered from 1968, when he was last here.

 

Looking through one of the arches from Plaza Mayor.

 

Mounted police on duty, busy girl watching!
We caught up with cousin Sarah and Emma from London and had a strange dinner in a restaurant where all the tables were removed from around us as we ate and workmen waited to get on with some repairs to the ceiling! We continued on with our meal and ordered desert. Great to catch up though. Last seen in Sydney in April.

 

This is a living green wall in our hotel Santo Domingo in Madrid. It is some sort of treated moss that requires only air now. Not allowed to touch!

 

On the way to an art gallery we passed the Grand Westin hotel. It looked very swish so we went in to look at the reception area.

 

And to take a photo.

 

At the Thysson Bornemisza gallery there was a Surrealism exhibition on. The banner shows part of a Magritte that shows two fellows chatting in the clouds, which has the caption “This is to dream”.

 

I found a Georgia O'Keefe that I don't remember having seen in any books before!

 

Madrid is huge with street facades like these.

 

 

This was taken in Parc Retiro.

 

We sat and had tea looking out over this lake in the park.

 

Hi Fran, I love this scarf that you gave me! We had delicious Argentinian beef for dinner here with lots of fresh broccoli, yum!

 

We were lucky enough to choose a wonderful flamenco performance to see. Head tossing, foot stamping costume changes, an amazing singer… A very exciting show.

 

 

Here we are sightseeing on a red tourist bus. A great way to look around and save wear and tear on the poor old legs! This is our reflection in a window that we went past.

 

Hi Mina. We must be thinking of you a lot. We keep seeing your name everywhere. I looked this one up. Espoz y Mina was a Spanish military person.

 

I am wearing a new skirt from Desigual. Kate told me I would love this store in Spain. We both bought things here. I love this scarf that Sarah gave me too!

 

Spain seems to have the custom of everyone walking out in the late afternoon. It is called 'passegiata' in Italy but we couldn't find a special word for it here.
This was taken in a very quaint little restaurant.

 

It seemed strange to see this statue of a bear in Sol Plaza. I thought it must be another statue to a faithful dog, but this bear is the symbol of Madrid.

 

CARCASSONNE

This is Carcassonne. It is really hard to take a photo that shows its size. I downloaded this one from the web. I wonder why a fortress with such a bloody history looks like a fairy tale castle to modern eyes.

This is my picture of the Vieux Pont with ducks in foreground. My caption is “Wait a minute chaps, Charlie's jumped the gun”.
We walked up this ramp to La Cite in the morning. In the evening we saw it in the film 'Labyrinth' back at our house, where there was a good selection of DVDs
Here is Don in the Castle. From the wooden ramparts above him arrows could be fired or rocks and boiling oil dropped on the enemy.
The city walls were repaired in fairly recent times thanks to Violet le Duc. Originally all the turrets had red terracotta tiles on top.

Beautiful countryside. As we left on the train we could see the snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees.

At home in La Petite Maison. We bought the flowers when we arrived.

Madame Carca, the symbol of La Cite. Legend has it that once, when the city had been saved from attack she called for the bells to be rung, thus giving the name to Carcassonne. (Carca sonne) 'Sonne' meaning 'to ring'.

This is a tapestry in the Basilica. I like this Madonna with a bit of attitude and the little Jesus playing with his foot and mother's nipple. The Labyrinth film maker liked it too and had a shot of it in the movie.
While we were in the Basilica this quartet started up. They sounded wonderful, their song echoing in the high vaulted arches.

Donald in red.

Below: My fashion statement for the day!

Street art in Carcassonne. This artist, Mohamed Leklet, had 35 paintings around the town.

Carcassonne is also on the Canal du Midi. The locks near here all have this elliptical shape.

More art around the town. This is quite huge and lit at night.
Back to La Petite Maison for another game of 'Carcassonne'. We started on the board game and ended up downloading it. It's quite good!
We hired cycles and rode along the canal path to Trebes. We were lucky to have such a sunny day and to find a lovely fish and chip restaurant open at Trebes on the canal.
The canal at Trebes.
The day after our cycle ride the wind came in off the Pyrenees and it rained. We went to Limoux for an outing and amused ourselves in a cafe. We had read of a film about the Cathars that you could see at Limoux but we couldn't find it.
Kate and Leo have been touring the Pyrenees in a campervan meanwhile. We were able to have them over for dinner and then the next day met them in La Cite for lunch. I cooked cod, which is really nice fish that we don't seem to have in Sydney unless it is smoked. For lunch we had big bowls of mussels.
Farewell again to Kate and Leo as we head off in different directions. They are returning their van to Toulouse before flying to Slovenia. Tomorrow we go by train to Barcelona.

 

CANAL TRIP. Places along the way.

Tourist Season is over. Most of France seems to have shut up shop. There are A Vendre ( for sale) and A Louer (for rent) signs everywhere. We have trouble buying supplies and Don even paid the outrageous sum of 4.5euros for the last half a baguette of bread, the only bit left in the shop. We spent the first night at Buzet sur Baise where we tied up next to boat with Australians from Perth on board. The second night we moored at Bout de la Cote whose claim to fame was a moose in the bushes. Not sure if it was stuffed or wooden and it was too dark to get a photo of it.

We went for a 6 kilometre ride along a small road that was well used by trucks and lorries to a forgettable town that was closed. When we returned to the boat we found a cafe for beers and chips, well earned.
 
This is, I think, Lavardac, where we were able to do some shopping. There is something to be said for supermarkets where you can get everything in one place. They didn't have one here!

Above: I do like this line of trees.

Below: This picture is from the museum of corkscrews, which interestingly enough we didn't go to. At Lavardac there is a museum of bees that Katy wanted to visit. Don being always happy to practise his language skills, walked up to a policeman and asked him “Ou est la musee de bouchons?” To which he got the surprising reply that it was about 20 kilometres away! The policeman had allowed for Don being an English speaker and had corrected 'bouchon'' (cork) to 'tirebouchon' (corkscrew) and given him directions to the nearest corkscrew museum. Only in France! Meanwhile we had learnt from the closed tourist information booth window that the word for bee is 'abeille' and that that particular museum is closed until the tourist season starts again sometime next year.

There are lots of quaint windows. Many are painted a restful jacaranda blue. This one was in Vianne. This town was also closed except for a few people attending a funeral. We spent time choosing our lunch from a menu ouside a restaurant that had people in it, that looked open, but the people were the owners and they waved us away. Closed!
The next few are of Nerac.

Don was relieved to find a place which wasn't “completely moribund”,where he could sit in the sun and have a beer and use wifi.

Above: We found another good place the next day, at Condom.

Condom is famous for….wait for it……the Three Musketeers. Don is making a fourth here. It is also a good place to buy armagnac, being the capital city of Armagnac. Apparently it has learnt that English speakers find its name quaint and has learnt to secure its street signs.

We finished our canal trip at Valence sur Baise. Here we took the bikes off the boat and cycled to the nearby Abbaye de Flaran, which houses a wonderful art collection including some lovely bronze sculptures by Dali.

 

There was another exhibition in another part of the abbey.

 

 

I liked this work by Jan Fabre, who also wrote the poem that goes with it.

I have made a translation from the French.

“Your brain is the fruit

Of millions upon miliions of years

Of attempts and mistakes

Of wanting but not being able

Of continuing to try even so

Of not giving up

Your brain itself is a world

I too desire such a brain.”

 

Cycling back from the abbey we found a little inn with a restaurant and as it was still Kate's birthday we decided to walk back later for dinner. Dressed in our cleanest dirty clothes off we went. We had to turn rather a blind corner on a road that was very narrow due to some large trees. The locals overcame the problem in true Gallic style. Rather than cut down the trees they put up a sign “Trees!”

 

It was a good night out.

 

CANAL TRIP in France – boating

We rejoined Kate and Leo at Agen to collect our boat, Vianne.

Along the canal

Below: watch out for hanging poles. Along the canal you have to twist the pole to start the operation of the locks.

This is cool, our canal crosses over the river.

In one of the locks waiting for the water level to rise.

 

Off we go again. No sooner out of the lock than under a narrow bridge.

I am running along the side of the canal to the next lock. This is where the horses used to walk as they pulled the old barge boats along. There were four locks in a row here so I didn't bother to get back on board till the end. Someone has to do the hard work of pushing a button and catching hold of the ropes when they are tossed from the boat.

Above: Here is Kate making hard work of holding the boat while it is in a lock.

Above: Here is Don gritting his teeth but managing to hold on to the boat.

Below: I didn't find it that difficult actually……

Below: Inside a lock

Drifting along the canal

 

The person who gets off before the lock has to get on again after, once the water has gone down. There were often stairs just past the lock and I took this photo while waiting for the boat to come and pick me up.

 

Pretty reflections.
Pushing the button for a bit of sideways thrust.
Don in the galley.

 

Managed to get all four of us in the picture.
It was a bit different going up river. We could see the water flowing down over a weir while we ducked into the lock at the side.

 

Leo was off doing lock duty this time.

 

The view from our bedroom when the water had been emptied,out of the lock.
It pays to put a little armagnac in your day.

 

Water rushing in at yet another lock. On a rainy day there seemed to be far too many locks.

 

On our last day aboard we helped Kate celebrate her 60th.