Despite, not because of, Covid, The Man and I have departed our home shores to spend the winter in warmer climes. I’m going to write and The Man is going to cycle. We’ve been here nearly a week and to begin with we experienced gale force winds, torrential rain, it was overcast, and not that pleasant but…on the 23rd October, which just happened to be my ‘big’ birthday, the blue skies showed up and I was able to have my breakfast of croissant and Crémant sitting in the garden. Since then, it’s been pretty warm and sunny, with more sun promised for the end of October and November.
Top of the Town
Lovely Bench under a Tree
Love this corner
The Café and The Patisserie
We’re on the outskirts of a village in the South of France, not far from the larger, better known town of Pézenas. On Saturday we drove to Pézenas to investigate the famous market but we could not find a parking space anywhere…the town was totally crammed. We needed to collect some birthday flowers sent to me by family, from the florist. I parked rather precariously — hazard warning lights on — while The Man ran across the road to collect. We then made a hasty retreat to our little town where we bought cakes and other delicious naughty things in the Patisserie, had a quick coffee and came on home.
We decided to explore Pézenas on Sunday. The weather was lovely and it was time to get on the bikes. It’s pretty much flat all around here which suits me, even though I do have a battery. I cycled with head up and smiling — it was a great feeling to be out in the warm fresh air. I am not a cyclist but The Man is and he told me I kept up a very good pace and he could sit on my wheel — just like they do in the peloton — and I would pull him along. So I was given full marks for my cycling. I did beat him up the final hill though!
We toured a little bit around the town which has a beautiful medieval centre and many small streets and alleyways, some cobbled and some not. We couldn’t find anywhere for coffee so pedaled home cutting through the centre ville to reach home. Here, disaster struck as I tried to wait on the side of the road for The Man while he made a short detour to look for the bins to recyle the glass. I somehow missed my footing and gracefully (I hope) met the pavement with my head, shoulder, arm and knee. What an idiot I felt but it was also bloody painful! My knight appeared quickly to haul me (not so gracefully) up and get me back on the bike. I love my electric bike but it is heavy and if it starts to fall over I cannot hold it. I have a bit of a bruise on my cheek and shoulder but the real pain was the feeling of embarrassment.
Smiles before the Crash
I’m sure you’re all wondering about Jpeg the dog. Well, she’s just loving it here. Only a few minutes walk from the house and we’re amongst the vineyards. They are beautiful laid out with many tracks or small roads running through them. I’m not sure what the rules are about the public walking on all these tracks but there’s nobody about and they go for miles. I will be able to explore different routes all the time. Jpeg is and Italian dog and has lived in England for five years so she is already bi-lingual dog. By the time we leave here, she should have mastered a bit of French too. Probably better than me!
A long time since I wrote any blog but I haven’t been idle. Apart from a holiday between Christmas and New Year in Cornwall at St Michael’s Hotel Falmouth where the food and facilities were great but the staff and running of the place left a little bit to be desired. Wouldn’t put me off going again though, but, I just don’t like being called ‘dear’ by the hotel reception staff. We did a quick trip to Gran Canaria in February to stay at the Lopesan Villa Del Conde. Both places were memorable in their own way, but the sun in Meloneras has to be the winner.
Walking the Coastal Path and Cream Tea at St Michael’s Resort
The Man did plenty of cycling while we were in Gran Canaria and I did plenty of lazing about and sunning myself – I did do some writing, which leads me on to the next bit of news.
I have finished the first draft of my novel! *drum roll* It’s only taken about four years! I am aware, that now the hard work really starts with editing., I do feel a great sense of achievement having been able to write the word, THE END. I’m going to a novel-writing retreat from 9-12 March, a bit late you might think but no, there are people on there who have already written and published one or more books and I think the weekend will help me to move quickly onto the next phase.
Other news is Brexit? No, I’m not going to talk about that except to say that I’m waiting until after the 29th March before I begin to put the dog through any unnecessary blood tests for a planned holiday in France in September.
Not Sure Jpeg wants to travel in the car to France…she’s ten years old now
I’ve been to London to visit the Discover – Children’s Story Centre and can recommend it to all you people out there with children or grandchildren who have a love of books or even if you’re not book obsessed it’s a wonderful day out with imaginative play areas inside and out. The day we were there featured a story-time of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr. A lovely story (even if a little dated). We went with a child of two and a half and a five-year old and both were entertained admirably. There was a fabulous area containing several child size ‘sets’ of stories about Mog the Forgetful Cat, also by Judith Carr. We had trouble dragging the children away from there, so many little rooms to play in and props to play with. The centre also has a cafe and a book/toy shop and plenty of toilets placed on every floor!
Bridport has not let us down this winter with so many films, plays, comedy nights etc., it’s impossible to keep up. This week the Electric Palace has hosted a Mike Leigh Film Festival and The Man and I went to see Secrets and Lies. Brilliant film with some superb acting from Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall. Afterwards there was a Q&A session with Mike Leigh and Andrew Dickson (the musical composer). It was wonderful to hear them speak about film making and collaboration between composer and director. The music for Secrets and Lies is so good that you hardly notice it – which is how it should be. A member of the audience asked Mike Leigh how he chose his actors and he said that first and foremost they had to be character actors and intelligent. He didn’t want anybody with a big ego. I loved watching the film but it made me feel a tad regretful. If I had my time again I would definitely have worked harder at my acting career. Maybe go to drama school, RADA if they’d have me. Oh, how I would absolutely love to be in a Mike Leigh film. *sigh*
Secrets and Lies…try and find it online or on a DVD such a brilliant film.
Can’t believe it’s nearly the end of February and March is looking very busy already. Must fit in more time to write my blog – I’m sure I have tons more to tell you but hey, the sun is shining and it’s time for a cuppa!
I’ve recently spent two weeks in France with The Man, where I’d hoped to cycle along the banks of the Loire, picnic in the sun with a glass of Rosé from Provence. Relax and enjoy the flowing of the river, the afternoon sun and listen to him read poetry lovingly in my ear. Well, the weather put paid to all that. Torrential rain and heavy low cloud, mist and showers followed us from Cherbourg to Biarritz, here, they said the weather had been bad for several months! It was hard to believe. I did manage to get on the bike a few times and twice with The Man, so all was not lost but what a disappointment. This blog post has been a long time coming and I’ve got no man here to check for mistakes. He’ll read it later and no doubt be emailing comments or writing them in the comments section below. We can’t all be perfect though can we? (I fear some of the French spelling could be suspect). Anyway, take it or leave it, I won’t be offended.
First Time Out on the bikes – Biarritz (nice château in the background – our home for two nights – see photos below)
We did stay in some beautiful hotels and some not so good but the accommodation, on the whole, ranged from comfortable to luxurious and as you’ll see by the photos it didn’t rain ALL the time.
We travelled from, Cherbourg to Vannes, then on to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Biarritz, Burgairalles, Vaison-La- Romaine, where The Man cycled up Mont Ventoux three times from three different start points on three consecutive days — Chapeau! (that’s what they say in the cycling world apparently). After Provence, we headed to Bourges, Saumur and finally St Malo where I left him in the drizzle and mist to cycle his way back down through France to Nice. (Mad or what?) I drove back on my own to Cherbourg where I caught the 18.30 ferry to Poole and home to Dorset before midnight.
I’ve picked a few photos from each place and given a little narrative to accompany some of them. We had great food, wonderful wine, visited many interesting little towns and loved it all — in between the rain. Enjoy.
Lovely Old Shutters
A Galette – Britanny Fast Food
The Streets of Vannes
The Streets of Vannes — our first stop. Nice hotel with plenty of parking. A galette for supper, quick breakfast the next morning and back on the road.
Love this image, guy on the harbour playing his guitar
The Waiters Race!
Dinner in the busy square
Same Square, Empty in the morning
La Rochelle — Lovely, I enjoyed this town and the evening stayed fine for us. We managed somehow to eat lunch and dinner which we don’t often do but both were most enjoyable. But with only a one night stop there wasn’t enough time to really explore.
Cathedral of Bordeaux
View of Bordeaux — Amazing architecture
Bordeaux. Stunning Cathedral and the Buildings of the City are uniform in colour and architecture. I found it a little overwhelming, so many people. No parking at our hotel and we had to park the car in an underground car-park and walk. Which, is okay but not ideal. Things were a little tense in the car with me driving and Geoff navigating via the satnav and google maps but we made it without coming to blows. We had a good walk round in the evening but I was happy to leave and move on in the morning.
It was very wet on arrival at this gorgeous hotel, we were early and our room wasn’t ready but they welcomed us into the house and we sat in the sitting room to have a snack. I took the opportunity to drink a glass of rosé and tried hard not to be too miserable about the weather. We drove into Biarritz for supper but as it was a wet evening we didn’t spend any time looking around. Another time perhaps. I did like the place.
View over a Biarritz Beach…or is it? I’m now confused.
We cycled from our hotel to Anglet and then along the coast to Bidart and back to the hotel. Negotiating some pretty steep hills to get us up from the beach and onto the higher coastal road. Thank goodness for my battery. I don’t know how Geoff does it, must be in the thighs.
Bike ride with friends – sunshine!
View towards the Pyrenees, Pic de Burgarach in the distance
Le Petit Verger…Nice little B&B
We stayed in a small town called Brugairolles whilst visiting friends who have a house in Cailhau, both villages are close to Carcassone, but we didn’t visit this time as we’d not been impressed on our last visit. The landlady at the B&B was very sweet and couldn’t do enough for us, but she was unable to give us a key and waited up for us to come home. We were very late the first night and felt like naughty boarding school children when she opened the door to let us in!
Third time – enough!
clouds at the top
clouds on the top from below
It’s all about The Man and why not? I was very proud of him cycling three times up this amazing mountain which features frequently in the Tour de France. It’s 21k (approximately) of cycling uphill and then zooming down the other side. At the top, it can be cold, 9deg on one day when it was 25deg at the bottom. He set out to do it and he achieved it. Well done Geoff! I only drove up once and that was enough. The other two occasions I met him at the bottom.
While Geoff cycled I explored the area around Mont Ventoux visiting the towns of Sault and Malaućene.
Sault — a lovely town in the centre of the lavender growing area. We were a bit too early in the year to get the whole experience but I would like to go back when the fields are in full bloom. July/August I think.
Main Street on a Saturday in Malaućene. . .I bought some local strawberries from smiley man and then thought the lady at the other stall might be a bit upset (didn’t want to mess with her) so I bought cherries too.
On my way back to collect Geoff I passed through Aurel a delightful hamlet
I also visited the launderette !!!
We got used to seeing these skies. This is the veiw over Vaison la Romane
Lovely but old…the room (and me)
As a treat we stayed in Le Beffroi in Vaison-La-Romaine for our last night in Provence – it was beautiful, check it out here.
Onwards — to the Centre of France and Bourges…long drive but worth it.
Hotel de Panette
Lovely old Chair
Breakfast was amazing
Hotel de Panette Probably one of our favourite hotels. Lovingly restored and they’re still working on it. Click here to take a look at their website.
The photo below is the main door to the hotel and their next project is to restore it to its former glory — you can make a financial contribution if you like 🙂
The street outside hotel
I went for a wet cycle ride – just so you know
More of Bourges — click on a photo to see caption
Oh…and I went to the launderette again…
Our last proper stop-over was Saumur and I loved it. The sun shone (a bit) I went for a bike ride to find the Cadre Noir de Saumur (it’s all about horses) and we went for the longed-for cycle ride along the Loire Valley for 36k. Great apart from where the river had flooded the cycle path and it turned into a kind of obstacle course with The Man carrying the bikes up the thirty-nine steps (with a little help from me when it was my bike).
Our Bike Ride along the Loire
My visit to the Cadre Noir de Saumur is worthy of a blog of its own but I’ll just leave you with these few photos. I spent a wonderful hour and a half looking around. It’s the National Riding School of France and the students, masters, grooms, helpers, in fact, all of the members of this unique school seem to be genuine horse loving people. The horses live a life of hard work and pleasurable relaxation. They have every facility that any equine could need. Then, at the end of their working life, they’re sold on for only around 1000 euro but they must go to a good home where they will have an easy retirement. They check every year to be sure they are being well cared for. Ahh… isn’t that lovely?
A touching moment between the Riding Master and his horse
And finally, St Malo where we stayed in the old town. A wonderful example of a fortified city. The satnav refused to find the road where our hotel was situated and as we wound our way through the narrow one-way streets it was easy to see why. Rabbit warren doesn’t even come close. The evening we arrived the weather was not too bad but the morning when Geoff set off on his bike ride was cloudy, misty, dull and disappointing. What a shame.
I said goodbye to The Man and sent him on his way. I drove to Mont St Michel but the carparks were enormous, full and a queue a kilometre long so I began to wind my way towards Cherbourg and stopped on the way to admire the windmill and view the mount in the mist in the distance.
BYE BYE, YOU MAD LOT! St Malo to Nice June 2018
Can you See the mount in the mist?
Lovely little windmill
Mont St Michel and the Little Windmill
Land Ho! Dorset Here I come…
I took so many photos it was hard to choose which ones to upload and even harder to edit and in the end, I confused myself. So If you see one that is in the wrong place just keep it to yourself and bear with me. Bye for now.
I have succumbed, I have given in, it was not my intention EVER to say yes but I have…and now, I am the proud owner of a bicycle … it is an E-bike which means it has a battery and can help me up the hills. Without this I would definitely not have said yes. Since we relocated to the UK from Italy, a couple of years ago, The Man has been cycling mad. This year he has planned many long, day rides (100 – 200k) and a big ride from St Malo to Nice in June (fifteen days I think) We are leaving on the ferry from Poole at the end of May, driving around France staying one, two, three nights here there and everywhere and he plans to ride almost every morning to keep up the fitness before the big ride. I’m going to abandon him and leave him to cycle across France and I’ll collect him from Bristol airport a couple of weeks later. I don’t think I’ll be attempting anything too adventurous on my bicycle, but you never know.
‘When we’re in France you can walk the dog and I’ll ride the bike, I’ll be back by lunchtime and then we can do whatever you like,’ he said.
I wasn’t so sure about this arrangement and the dog didn’t look too happy about it either. I could tell what she was thinking.
‘I don’t mind being in the car for a few days then stopping in one place for a month where I can lay in the sun and chill. But, stop, start, stop, start every other day and only putting my paws on terra firma for a maximum of three days in one place does not sound like fun for me.’
I took her advice and booked her into the kennels for 19 days — not sure that was quite what she had in mind.
I’ve been out on my bike several times and I love it. I’m not hooked (yet) and I’m not out there trying to win any Strava segments or be Queen of the Dorset hills, but I’m happy to pedal along and zap up the power when I need it. The battery only works if you pedal, so you can never just sit there and do nothing, unless you’re going downhill of course. I’ve been shopping a couple of times and have to carry stuff home in a back pack — but, not for long, the panniers have been ordered. Not exactly the same as the ones below as mine will be blue.
I cannot wait to get to France and cycle along the Loire Valley, stop in a beautiful place and wait for The Man to join me (as I can get up the hills faster than him) for a picnic, which I will have transported. I will lay back on the grass, snooze a bit and be inspired to write — I hope.
The dog, may not get off so lightly. I’m investigating the ‘harness and lead’ for bike riders so she can run along beside me. She doesn’t know what she’s in for!
And she’s off…
My bike is a Volt Pulse LS Step Through E-bike from Volt bikes at London Bridge. I think I got the last one! LOVE IT.
The Man needs no introduction…read this, it’s from his Strava ride notes…I think he should be a bike blogger don’t you?
You’ve got the bloody thing taking up space in the spare bedroom, it’s raining, why aren’t you on it?
ahhh ma cherie I murmured, that same thought crossed my mind not a nanosecond ago, but I am of course most grateful for your kind words of encouragement …
with a patently false, devil may care expression attached to the bon visage, I creaked my way up the stairs and proceeded to get it on!
But before you get on it, you need, a bottle, a towel, your expensive shoes with the pro cleats, 2 new batteries for the Garmin Vectors (shoulda changed them last time) the laptop, two boxes to stand the laptop on, the bedside cabinet, and the wifi booster thing.
Suitably armed, climb aboard and get on with it – well not quite yet because the reason that you aren’t getting any resistance even in the big gear, is that you didn’t clip the wheel to the flywheel before you started, so, climb off do that, get back on and pedal … Oh shit I forgot to start the f***ing video of the German chap riding Liege B Liege with his mates, in the rain, last year, so I have to hang out over the handlebars holding on with one hand and attempt to fire up the laptop with the other, find Favourites, click on the vid, sit back down and …. Christ! I think I might have twisted my knee doing that …..
and so it went on – but I did eventually get in the zone and managed to crank out an hour’s worth at 30kph, so that’s only just over 200km of the LBL still do do AND IT’S BLOODY HILLY by the look of the video, yer man on screen was pedalling single figure kph for lots of it and the profile is very jagged – hmmm – better think seriously about the lardshedding eh!
Perhaps not today though as one of LBN’s exquisite Thai green curries is on the lunch menu …
This wasn’t my first visit to the Isle of Wight, if you remember, we went in August 2016 – for The Man to cycle round it. He went again a few weeks ago so you would have thought he’d had enough but no, he had to do it again. This time it was a team effort with the members of Bridport Cycles. It was the inaugural Kapton Krypton HandiKup IOW. A cycle ride for a club member who has the big C and wanted to set something up for the time when he might not be here. It was decided they should make the first ride in 2017 and that he could participate in his own memorial ride, (which would be a first). Twelve of the riders cycled from Bridport Cycle shop in Symondsbury to Lymington on Friday 13th to catch the ferry. On Saturday, thirty-two of them cycled around the IOW and then on Sunday, ten cycled back to Dorset and their various homes around the county. A bloody good show I say. The Man did the whole thing and I was very proud of him…around 215 miles in total. I tagged along behind, carrying bags, spare parts and a pump… One member was lost on the Friday due to mud on the road and a subsequent broken wrist, he bravely cycled on to the half way point of the morning, Ruby’s Cafe in Wool and then cycled home again…What a star.
Brave Man…home at last nursing a broken wrist…There’s always next year Lloyd (photo curtesy Liz I assume)
On Saturday evening there was dinner at the Albion Hotel, who, despite very late notice, managed to turn out a scrumptious meal for thirty at a very reasonable cost to all. In fact, they were only given our menu choice at 7.30pm and dinner was served at 8pm. Not bad eh?
I wrote this poem on Saturday afternoon and I’m sharing it with you here.
KK HandiKup – Isle of Wight Circumnavigation
A couple of Richards, a Tom Dick and Harry,
A Cat and a Bev, don’t think there’s a Sally?
I find it hard to remember the names
And when in their Lycra they all look the same.
They cycled around either clockwise or anti
Some followed their own – modus operandi
Stopping for coffee, tea and for lunch
They really are an eclectic bunch
It wasn’t a race but they wouldn’t be told
Some of them rushing as if going for gold
Others taking time, enjoying the ride
Cutting the corners – I’m on their side
I drove the back-up, following the mob
Well, actually, I wasn’t really sure of my job
I decided at lunch they could manage without me
And retired to my hotel for cake and for tea
Nobody wanted a pill or a plaster,
On the day, there was no major disaster
Surplus to requirement, of me there was no need
So I set about organising the evening feed
We had dinner on Saturday at the Albion Hotel
Which is stuck in the 80s, not a great sell
They did their best with the troublesome lot
I fear, the managers, may have lost the plot
But, prizes were given, people did shout
Others moaned and gave a good pout
But, I hope they all had a jolly good time
And didn’t find it too much of a pantomime!
The photographs are not all mine but I hope nobody minds me using the odd couple that aren’t.
It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve not had time to write much (not on my blog anyway). Poor excuse I know but The Man rode his bicycle for a week in the Alsace (Vosges) and then instead of coming home on the 25th June he took the opportunity to cycle four epic climbs in The Alps and the Pyrenees. I am so proud of him!
Check out the Slide Show!
I made the most of his absence by tidying up the garden and painting the garden furniture. It all looks fabulous. Paint used was Ronseal Garden paint and I can highly recommend it. We had some great weather in June…no complaints from me.
Newly Painted Garden Furniture
Splendid Work on the Herbaceous Border
Other things I did while The Man was away.
I attended my third Black Venn Poetry workshop in Lyme Regis. I find these highly stimulating and never fail to produce a piece of work of which to be proud. I’ve even entered one for a competition, I’ll let you know how it goes.
I entered a 2700 word short story for a competition run by the Literary Trust…It had to be a modern version of a fairy story. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, (I’m sure a few others will have done the same). I will let you know what happens, if anything, later in the year. I was pleased with it but don’t hold out too much hope as there will be plenty of brilliant entries I’m sure.
I went to Bristol and to Weston Super Mare for my grand daughter’s first playgroup outing. It was…err…memorable. The day before it had been 30 degrees but the day of the outing, the rain clouds came in and the temperature dropped over 10 degrees the wind got up…
First Taste of Ice Cream
Worth the Wait…
So the sand ended up in everything, not just our sandwiches but in our hair and underwear. (think there’s a poem there somewhere). The baby ate the sand and the four-year-old got it in her eyes. But she still managed a donkey ride and an ice-cream before we beat a hasty retreat back to Bristol for a cup of tea and a piece of cake!
I deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom in our cottage.
I watched Poldark on Sunday evening.
I have started doing Driving for the Disabled with the Forde Abbey Driving Group. Driving is a branch of Riding for the Disabled but we have ponies pulling carriages which are able to take wheelchairs if necessary.
I joined the group at the end of last year and so far, for many reasons, I have missed several sessions but I’m back on track now. It’s something I did for years when I lived in Devon and had my own pony, Ginger. Lovely he was. I don’t feel the need to get another pony but I am enjoying other people’s. I have to be re-assessed as a Coach Driver – more form filling and courses to attend. More learning and stuff to remember, for my poor brain to cope with. Hoping it won’t take long.
I went to the ballet in Bridport and saw Ballet Central. It was an excellent performance of several short pieces. The company is made up from students in their final year. By the look of things some of them will go far. Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. How they managed to adapt to the small stage,without loss of performance, was quite remarkable. Well done all!
I read a few books, some better than others, but I enjoyed them all. The last one was My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding. I loved it, a beautifully written memoir of her childhood up to her twentieth year when she went to Cambridge University. I don’t know much about horse racing but I do love horses and dogs and that is the basis of her book. It’s written honestly and openly.
I think that’s most of the important stuff covered. Oh I did fall over and graze arm and knee pretty badly and when there’s no-one at home and even the neighbours are away you just have to get on with it don’t you?
It got worse before it got better but thankfully nothing broken…Oh wait a minute, I broke my tooth the following day. That’s three things then…no more to come, hopefully.