Archive for September, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Friday, September 21st, 2007

If you’d like to see some of the pictures I took on the trip to France, go here:

Home Again, Home Again

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

After living in a foreign country for 10 days it feels good to be home on one level and a shame for vacation to end on another.

Having clean clothes, cooking food in my own kitchen, and getting back in my yoga body has been nice. All those cares and schedule demands that seemed so pressing before I left are starting to creep back into the front of my mind. I feel like the race will soon begin and, bang, I will be off and running from thing to thing once again. That’s one of the nicest things of vacation … the cares and demands, the responsibilities and the duties seem to disappear. It’s nice to take a break from them while away. There’s probably a lesson there … to somehow apply that balance of down time with the demand of duty on a regular basis.

Pont du Gard/Nimes 9 Sept

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

We headed out of Ales on 9 September to visit two places: Le Pont du Gard and Nimes.

Le Pont (bridge) du Gard (over the Gardon River) is a Roman aqueduct built in about 50 AD. It took an estimated five years to build and it is a huge thing. Whenever I see these sorts of Roman structures it makes me wonder how they accomplished these feats 2000 years ago without any equipment. Lots and lots of sweat and ingenious engineering. They were quite sharp, as we learned on our trip to Bath in England a few years ago. Anyway, this thing spans the river and has three levels; the top on being the longest at 490 meters. The top has 47 arches. Second level is 242 meters long and is 19.5 meters high with 11 arches. And the botto, is the tallest at almost 22 meters with six arches spanning 142 meters across the river. We walked across and then Mom and I hiked up a trail to the panoramic view spot to take a few pics. In its day this aqueduct moved water at a rate of 400 litres per second. There was not a guided tour or admission so there was not a pamphlet with the history. I got all of the above info from the postcard I bought in the gift shop.

On to Nimes. The traffic in Nimes was murder. One of the major roads through town was shut down for some sort of bull event. Miraculously so,eone was pulling out of a parking spot and Dad pulled in. I am not sure how he actually got the car in the spot; but he did. The spot was right in front of Maison Cariee, another Roman ruin. We did not go in for the 22 minute 3D movie but we climbed the steps and looked it over. The columns were huge!

On our way to the Arenes (arena) we heard the sound of hoof beats on the pavement. We wandered over to the blocked off area and watched as; on one end of the street; a bull was let out of a trailer truck, chased by a three or four guys on horses, and then by a group of young men. We did not actually see what happened at the end of the street ( to the bull). The horses and riders came back to the truck to do it all over again. The bull did not come back.

The arena is another testament to the Roman engineers. It looks like the coliseum in Rome but is smaller. It appears to by still used today. About half ( the lower half) has been replaced with wooden bleachers (really rickety). The place is big … not U of M The Big House big, but big. We climbed to the top and could see all around the city. The sun and wind were magnifique. If you wanted to, you could step right off the top and tumble to your death. One young couple walked the whole distance around the top. It gave me tingles down my spine just to watch them … and gave me shivers just to think and type that description!!

On our way back to Ales we stopped at a tiny walled town on top of a hill called Lussan. This is not a mountainous area so building a walled town on top of this hill was probably a good idea in medieval times. There is still a good bit of the wall left and we walked around the village in short order. There is one way in and that, too, was probably a good security move in the before time.

We put 12,500 steps on the ped today and had a to die for chocolate mousse for dessert!!!


Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

We said goodbye to our hostess, Jane, and traveled to Ales in Provence. We are staying in an Ibis, a sort of chain hotel. It is comfortable and has a bathtub (not just a shower) and is smack dab in the middle of town. There is a cyber cafe here where I am caught up on my emails. It is a struggle using a foreign keyboard. For those of you who touch type it is back to the hunt and peck days. The letters a, z, q, w, m are all in different spots so it can be slow going.

Ales is a busy town and very easy to get around on foot. Today we found a market in a square and went to the tourist info office.

Camurac, The French Countryside

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

In Camurac we stayed in a Gite (an apartment for rent). The couple who owns the Gite are English; Jane and Graham. Camurac is a very small village. Jane told us she thinks there are just 40 families living there.

One of the things that happens in the small mountain towns like Camurac. On certain days a mobile market rolls into town. Some days it is the butcher with a display of meat. He rolls into town for an hour or less and then rolls on over to the next place. The bread truck came to Camurac several days we were there. He would roll into town, park right outside our Gite, honk his horn signaling he was open for business, and a half an hour later he was on his way.

September 6 Jane took us on a hike to Montaillou Castle ruins. The road from Camurac to Montaillou is one lane mostly untravelled. We were accompanied on our hike by Bobby, a German Shepard from the village.

The sun was bright and there was a slight breeze so it was a perfect day to go for a hike. We walked about an hour to get to the castle remains, about half of it flat and the other half a steep uphill climb. The view from the top is quite nice. Only parts of two or three walls remain.

It was great to be outside in the fresh mountain air in a quiet place! The quiet is only disturbed by the sound of the cow bells carried on the wind. Each of the cows has a big cowbell around its neck. I tried to get a picture today but I may have been too far away. I do not think I have seen a cowbell in its original use … only at U of M hockey games.

Every day the weather has been perfect. The mountain air is cool in the morning, warming up in the afternoon, and then cool again at night. The temp is about five degrees cooler in Camurac than in the towns in the valley … Ax les Thermes, for instance.

I am wearing my pedometer every day and the hike up the mountainside was a 10,000 step day.

Rivière Subterraine de Labouiche, 7 Sept

Friday, September 7th, 2007

We headed towards Foix for the Rivière Subterraine de Labouiche, an underground river. The 75 minute boat trip covers a mile going past weirdly shaped stalaclites and stalagmites. We changed boats twice; going further and further underground each time. The deepest cave was about 60 meters. The water, not very deep, is at 11 degrees c and the air temp is 13 degrees c year round. The guide gave info in both French and English; which was nice. All the while he was giving tidbits about the cave, he pulled the boat along through the caves by grabbing a cable mounted on the walls of the cave. Expertly he guided the boat; ducking or sitting when the cave ceiling was low. This was a great stop. It was weird, scary, exciting, interesting, and extremely unique. We have never done anything like this in our travels.

For dessert tonight we had a terrific pastry. It was a puff sort of thing covered in chocolate filled with a mocca or chocolate mousse. Tres manufique!


Friday, September 7th, 2007

Andorra is a small (really small) principality between France and Spain. They bill Andorra as a shopping mecca. It´s duty free and, by a cursory look, about half the stores are perfume shops and the other half are electronic shops. Barb´s looking for perfume and Dad´s looking for a convertor (we blew through two yesterday charging the computer) so I guess we´re in the right place. I was looking for a cyber cafe (viola – I found one) and next I´ll be hunting for some ice cream.

Yesterday we went to Carcassonne, a walled town to the north of Camurac, where we are staying. Camurac is small (small as is the population is 800). There is a school, a store (open from 830 to noon), and a post. I´ve seen more dogs than people, so far. The French are crazy for their dogs. They run loose in town. Our hosts (owners of the apartment) are nice. They, Jane and Graham, are English.Camurac is sin the valley between mountains and there are at least seven hairpin turns from Ax les Thermes, the town on the other side of the mountain. If I didn´t know that I was a flat lander before this trip, the nausea from the mountain ride this morning convinced me.

Carcassonne! A lovely walled city, in fact, double walled. The town has of course grown outside the walls and inside has become a tourist attraction. There are shops and restaurants inside the walls and the castle is mostly intact. We tromped around inside the castle. In each room there are signs in French, English and German, so it was nice to read about the function of all the rooms, although, they all look alike. There was a huge emphasis on getting power, keeping power, and gaining more power through out the castle´s history. So, much of their time was spent on keeping the castle, and the dude in power, safe.

The weather is perfect, the food is good and the keyboard is murder.