Photo Gallery

The galleries are best viewed in full screen mode - use F11(Internet Explorer)

Place cursor on image to see the image description

Paris1 Gallery

Pujols Gallery

The Bastides (walled villages)

The Chateaux

Bonaguile

Biron

Other Places

Argen & Villeneuve sur Lot

Cahor & St Cirque Lapopie

A peek into Spain

Paris & Monet's Garden

 

Sunday 7th. August 2011

The view from the Hotel Mercure Paris Gare Montparnesse at 20 Rue de la Gaite is not brilliant but 'oh so' quintessential Paris. Hundreds of tiny, very old chimney pots and a great addition, I suspect from recent times, roof top gardens. Looking down from the hotel it has a wonderful garden area but sadly neglected and not capitalized on. It is 4 star chain hotel - comfortable, wonderful room service, fantastic location but except for the view little character. "Character" costs lots of $'s here and I suspect generally delivers less service and comfort.

Our trip from Melbourne has been very disappointing. We booked Premium Economy on Air France Melbourne to Singapore with Qantas' newest plane an A380 - very plush and huge. Our seats were very comfortable and roomy, food service had proper cutlery and china plates, and good food and wine.  We were seated upstairs with Business Class.  The downside was that the plane was 2 hours late leaving Melbourne and hence we missed the Air France connection in Singapore and had to fly Qantas via London and then to Paris. The end result was 28 hours travel versus 22 hours.

One respite from the extended travel with endless queues and security checks was the Oyster Bar at Heathrow. At 8 am on Sunday morning we ordered a breakfast of smoked Scottish salmon with roe, salad and scrambled eggs. I chose champagne to wash down my breakfast (or was it lunch or dinner?)  whereas Andy opted for a couple of pints of London Pride beer - absolutely delicious. The whole experience was enhanced by the wonderful and friendly host of the establishment who was entertaining and made us feel comfortable and relaxed.

The Air France flight to Paris was less than 1 hour - enough time to enjoy the in-flight snack and a 'snifter'. It was a long hike to the departure location of the the shuttle bus to Gare Montparnesse, but it was well sign posted (take bus No 4). We had been informed that our hotel was opposite the Gare Montparnesse station. In addition I had noted the street name as Rue de Gare instead of Rue the Gaite!  Consequently we spent a lot of time lugging our suitcases around the station  (a considerable distance) before asking direction to our hotel. After settling in we wandered down to a nearby bar and had a welcome drink in the glorious sunshine and went back to the hotel for a quick snooze before dinner. After waking up at 10 pm both of us were starving and went out for a light meal just before the bar closed down for the evening!

Monday 8th August 2011

Woke at 6 am much refreshed and started a power walk round the  area. Didn't last long before we succumbed to  a petit dejeuner. Next was the Musee D'Orsy. Muse D'Orsay

Again we couldn't get access as it closes on Mondays!   Next walked down St Germain Boulevard and saw the famous Brasserie Lipp which was one of Hemingway's haunts and Cafe De Flore, frequented by Simone de Beauvoir.  The latter is very elegant.   Walked down Rue Saint Benoit and saw the most fascinating restaurant - La Petit Zinc.  Lots of zinc work outside and the most amazing interior decor - very exotic!   It would best be described as 'romantic luxury' - intimate, elegant, arresting.  Would like to consider this for our last night but probably too expensive. However, a 3 course lunch can be had for E21 which considering the decor & the fact they have a fresh oyster bar is very reasonable.

Walked round the area and then had a drink at Le Bar de Marche, at 76 rue de Seine - described as 'very trendy'.  Quintessentially Paris - with wicker chairs facing to the walk way.  Sat outside and soaked up the atmosphere and the marvelous feeling of being in Paris.  By 11 a.m. the scene totally changed and people appeared from nowhere.  Before 11 a.m. it was like a Sunday at 9 a.m.!  Great bar for people watching which is an essential part of a Paris stay.   This area appears to be the  'artists' area. Lots of galleries and paint supply shops.   Had lunch here at La Palette, 43 rue de Seine, which was frequented by Picasso.   Shared 2 platters - one of Spanish sardines which came out with an opened tin of Spanish sardines!    Also, finely chopped red onion and chives + toasted bread and superb, crusty baguette.   Also had a salad with lettuce, ham, cheese and cherry tomatoes.  Light and delicious.   This whole area is very busy, classy and interesting.  Vibrant without being too-too elegant and stuffy.   Just love it.

Constantly tempted to 'go down this street'  - 'no, this street'  - 'oh! - look there'.   Forgot to mention that at La Palette we met Pedro.  An elderly, elegant lady and her small dog came to lunch.  After a while the lady put the dog on a chair opposite her.  So non-Oz!.  Was taking photos of the dog when the lady introduced him as Pedro.  A real cutie.  Last night shared the hotel lift with a man and his dog which was staying with him in the hotel and today saw a large dog riding the Metro.  Why not?   Do believe we are far too uptight in Oz.  Dogs know how to tell their owners they need a toilet break so what are we worried about?

 

 

 

 

Next stop was La Invalides - extraordinary building.  The Hotel Des Invalides - Musee De L'Armee was built in the 1670s by Louis XIV to provide housing for the 4,000 invalides

(disabled war veterans). On 14th July, 1789 a mob seized 32,000 rifles before heading on to the prison at Bastille and the start of the French Revolution.  It's quite astounding to think this enormous and splendid building was built so long ago with non of today's technology - all by hand!   The dome that crowns the building glitters gold and in today's sunshine was spectacular.  Not being interested in France's military history we didn't buy tickets to tour the building.

Then walked down Boulevard des Invalides in direction of the Seine and saw Rodin's Museum 'Viola' -   Again not open on a Monday!!.    Another one for our 'lessons learned' list is that many restaurants and shops shut early August and don't open until the second week of September.

Near our hotel we visited the Montparnesse 'Cimiterie' - many, many famous French people buried there.  Amazing musaleoms and graves. Lots of French diplomatic dignatories.

 

Tuesday 9th August 2011

Arrived at Musee D'Orsay at 9.30 a.m.   Already a huge queue.   As we had booked on-line went in the shorter 'Reservee' queu.    The Musee D'Orsay was a rail station - it is magnificent - huge domed glass ceilings and an enormouse, spectacular gold clock.  Spent approximately 2 hours viewing an amazing array of art works.  My favourites were Tissot (old school), Guaghin (wonderful, vibrant colours) and Paul Signet 1863 - 1935 ( wonderful dot paintings).

We then went to St Germain for lunch at a very cute bistro called Le Machon d'Henri where we had an excellent lunch.  Veal liver and superb onions (cinammon stick and sultanas) + cheese topped potatoes.  Huge serves and very rich.   We opted for a light dinner opposite the hotel.   Also called into the hotel we will stay in later this month, Relais Saint Sulpice, 3 Rue Garanciere, St Germain and booked a tour of Monet's garden for 1st September.   The hotel is in a wonderful location right behind the St Sulpice Church and square.

 

Wednesday 10th August 2011

Took a taxk to Charles de Gaulle airport (E60).  More problems for this troubled pair.  We had not booked our bags when paying on-line for the Easyjet tickets + our luggage was 4kg over the the 20kg per bag limit.   This muck up cost us E108!!   To make it worse we have to pay the same on return - cheaper if we pay on the net.  We will have to send some goods home.  Then at security we had to forfit a 1/2 litre of gin + a small bottle of malt whisky.  

At last a smooth, hassle free transition from airport to airport shuttle bus and to Toulouse railway station.   Even time for a beer and a delicious baguette.  Wish the Australian stations had such great quality food.   The train was very comfortable and agreed it would have been far better to have gone from Gare Montparnesse by train through to Aegen.   Arrived on time (as all French trains seem to) at 12.15pm at Aegen.  No 'R...' (our host) to meet us!.  After 3/2 hour rang our friends in Melbourne to see if they had his home number (we had already tried his mobile but no response).   Not long later saw a man that looked like 'R..' enter the station - look at the clock and leave.   Tried to chase after him but he disappeared.  Another 15+ minutes later he came back and I called our "R..." and he responded.   He had thought we were to arrive at 1.15pm.    He then drove us the 30 minutes from Aegen to his village of Pujols.    Pujols has a modern section and on the hill is the medieval part of the town.  This is where 'R..and S...' live and where we are to look after their house and garden for 3 weeks.   Their house is 600+ years old and made from lime stone.  Enormous exposed oak beams line the ceilings.  Rather challenging for Andy to walk around the house without hitting his head on the beams.   'R.. and S..' bought the house while living in Hong Kong and when the place next door came on the market they bought that and combined them to become one large comfortable home.   From the front there are 2 front doors.   Their house features on the home page of the Pujols web site.  The window boxes are on 2 levels, there is a herb garden and a delightful courtyard with a large out door table and umbrellas.   Geraniums, fuschia, roses, ferns, petunias, begonias etc etc are all blooming. There is a side garden of lawn.  This and the roses are Richard and Sandy's 'nod' to their English heritage. Plus a delightful courtyard which includes a fish pond (including goldfish) a large table and 3 umbrellas - perfect for summer dining. 

Over a delicious welcome dinner we were briefed on the many markets in the area. The nearest town Villenueve sur Lot is Saturday, Pujols Sunday and plenty more.   Have also been shown several of the Marches (supermarkets) which have superb produce - amazing array of fresh fish, terrines, pates and cheeses.  The best spot is Les Halles in Villeneuve sur Lot - really fresh fruit and a wonderful fromargerie.  The restaurants buy from here.  

Dinner in the courtyard on our first evening started with Richard's home made Sangria.  It is delicious and really packs a punch.  It quite spoilt me other Sangria tried at bars during our stay.  'R.. & S..' travel to Spain, at least once per year ( a 3 hour drive away)  to stock up on different products and shoes and while there buy a gallon of triple sec (Cointreau) which gives their Sangria the 'punch'!   This was followed by a delicious BBQed corn fed chicken.   Weather is hot during the day and perfect around 8pm for outdoor dining.

Thursday 12th August

  'S..' took Andy and I to the market at Sang Livrade.   Bought a casual pair of pants off a rack in the street for E12 (Aud 16) and yesterday bought a summer top for E5 (Aud 8).  The market was wonderful.  Bought olives, rabbit and lots of vegetables.  All of brilliant quality.

Andy and I cooked dinner for 'R..and S..'.  Andy's mediterranean  peppers and anchovies and my Le Lapin in moutarde with grapes from Stephanie Alexander.  This followed with nectarines and raspberries all accompanied by a couple of bottles of Richard's excellent red wine.

Friday 11th August

'Orientation Day'.   Lunch at home and a tour of the Pujols village with 'R..'.  We were introduced to neighbour of 'R.. & S..' who has been a long time resident of Pujols and is considered en famile.  She has quite a large plot of garden.  Also met Lady  L.., a wealthy, attractive widow who lives in a large house overlooking the spectacular valley below.  She spends 1/2 her year in Pujols and 1/2 in London, a very lucky lady.

'S..' took me to super market and then to her favourite spot Les Halles (previously mentioned) and then behind a church we went to an orchard where we bought the most fragrant peaches and nectarines.   Have started to have these, and these alone for breakfast and they are sublime!.

In the evening we hosted 'R..& S..' to Smeralda Restaurant in Pujols.  Only 3 minutes walk from the house.    A warm, balmy night and we sat in the delightful courtyard.   Sardinian owners and hence food.  Marvelous anti pasta,  'pot' of spinach,  mussels.  This was just for starters!   Most enjoyable night.

Saturday 12th August

Far welled R&S after a delightful few days.    Then off to Penne D'Agenais.  A very picturesque drive.   Drove on to Tournon d'Agenais - superb spot with amazing views over the Lot.  Lunch at Le Beffori in Tournon d'Agenais.  Very pleasant. Then on to view lily ponds at Temple Sur Lot where Monet bought lilys for his garden in Geveny.  Unfortunately they weren't flowering.   

Then off to another (the 5th!?) Marche for dinner and picnic supplies.  We can't believe how cheap vis a vis OZ everything is e.g beer is E2.90 for a 6 pack (A5  vs. in Oz A12!)., good quality Rose A$5.0!.  Food is amazingly cheap - camember we pay $10++++   = A$4 max!

Relaxing dinner in the courtyard of the house in Pujols.   Prior to dinner I write this with glass of rose in hand, maps out for tomorrow's planning and gorgeous little Poppy, le chat, sprawled out sur la table.  Andy content and bliss!

 

Sunday 14th August

Awoke at 8am to hear construction going on outside our bedroom window.  A stall being erected for the Sunday market.  After our daily orange juice (freshly squeezed Spanish oranges) and my daily nectarine + freshly brewed black coffee for breakfast we walked out the door to be embraced by the Pujols Sunday market.   Amazing to have this right at our front door.  Bought prunes in liquor for Kim & Eleanor, white(with red tips) radishes, melon, tomatoes (most amazing shapes and sizes - 1st time I've seen 'asian shaped' tomatoes); olive oil soap (A$3), dates; foi gras @ 100% canard = E9.90.  This is the top quality and is a very small tin.   Also a tin for E4.90 @ 35% canard..    Also bought from a stall with enormous Spanish paella pans  a dish of boullabaise + cousous with savicon, beans and poulet for dinner tonight.  The dinner came to Aud20.0.      Bought excellent Savignon Blanc from Domane Amblard's vineyard - Cotes De Duras  -  1/2    - retails at around Aud $60 per dozen!     We are just bowled over by how cheap everything is.  Wonderful experience as with the many times we have come to Europe this has not been our experience.  Sat at an outdoor bar for 1/2 an hour and soaked up the atmosphere which included this amazing older man with an aqua plastic hat  a pram - doll in pram - radio blasting rather nice French music and a sun flower which he brushed over the ladies he liked.  Unique!    So good to walk 3 minutes to a wonderful market and then 3 minutes home to off load goods and go back and stock up again.   Also bought a pair of red leather walking shoes for E35.   Alot of UK folk about as this is ex-pat country given proximity to Britain.  Tomorrow have invited Jannis's friend Paul to lunch.   Thinking about crudite with aoli (can buy this already made up) and BBQ porc skewers - potatoe + green salad - cheese and fresh peaches.

Rained this morning and now warm, humid and pleasant.  To date most days over 30 degrees.

 

Monday 15th August

 

Jannis's friend Paul, arrived at midday for lunch.  He lives at Lauzert approx. 40 minutes from Pujols.  No rain today but very humid and hot.  Paul is imping as broke his foot

after a big night out, when he fell off a bridge into the water and hit a rock.  All this happened at 1a.m.   Luckily he was with friends her successfully rescued him!   Admittedly very dark at that hour.    As Paul is divorced, in my usual match making way suggested a potential match with an widow in the village.    As it turns out Paul new the lady in question although they have met.   Unfortunately Paul has a penchant for rather 'younger' women so gave up any thoughts of making a successful match for him.   Very pleasant company and enjoyable lunch -   Melon (these are sublime here) and prosciutto;  Aoli and crudite;  porc on skewers; tomatoe and basil (bought a huge plant in a pot for E2 (Aud 3) yesterday which will last us the entire 3 weeks and leave R&S heaps for months.   After this 3 superb cheeses - the brie was to die for.
The weight may be going on but it's bliss all the way!

Tuesday 16th August

Drove to Cahors which is very famous for it's wonderful red wines, particularly Malbec.  The cheaper varieties are referred to as 'Barn Yard' wines as the nose has a cow manure whiff/odour but they taste great.  The better quality have a great nose and are sublime.   Cahors is a medieval town and extraordinary how some of the buildings remain standing - just fascinating.  Drove along side the river Lot to St Cirque La Popie.  One side of the river and road side enormous cliffs of solid stone occasionally a man made tunnel right through the rock.  St Cirq La Popie another extraordinary site - the most dramatic we've see to date.  Looks like a medieval town cut into the side of a mountyain and seemingly floating in the air form the road we entered into the village.  First stop was lunch.  Stephanie Alexander had recommeended lunch on the terrrace of Auberge du Sombral.  We were very lucky, having not booked, to get the last table on the terrace.   E15 - super saled i.e. the recommended Salad Paysanne  which consisted of foi gras, magret du canard (cured duck) lots of different lettuces - tiny slices of radish + delicious small walnuts.  Sublime!   This was accompanied by excellent bread.  First Andy had a beer and I an excellent white - Chateau Eugenie La Trielle Roy.  We then both had a red recommended by Stephanie - Chateau Triguedina - Le Petit Clos - superb!.  We savoured every mouthful.    Salad followed by Limon(lime) sorbet and fraises sorbet with a superb crunchy tuille.    What more could one want for lunch?? 

Then climbed to the top of the ruins and saw the most stuning view of the Lot Valley -  truly magnificent and hard to tear one's gaze away.   Reminded me of parts of the special parts of Switzerland.   As I write I feel quite lost for words.  Hopefully when we add the photo of the view all will know what I mean.   Just about every village we visit is worth walking around - most medieval and the scenery driving along side the Lot River is stunning.     After this memborable day, home to Pujols,  dinner in the serene out door garden, with delightful Poppy, and market bought Boullabaisse + green salad and a wine.

 

Wednesday 17th August

Travelled to Aegen.  Around 30 minutes from Pujols.   Had planned to incorporate 2 other towns/villages in the days travels but it was over 40 degrees and just too too hot!.  Aegen is another amazing medieval town.  Large with lots of classy stores and some very classy ladies shops.  Found the Cave - Cave Baesa at 27, place Jean-Batptise Durand.  Andy was in 7th heaven as he sampled malt whisky from 4 huge glass containers.  They have the most wonderful array of attractive glass bottles that you can decant the whisky into.   Andy bought 2 small bottles.  Also found the wine we enjoyed at Cirq La Poppie and bouth a bottle for E16 (aud 20).

Had lunch at the restaurant at teh railway station which had been recommended but this was disappointing.

 

Had an amazing experience while waiting for Andy to take photos.  A very dapper French man walked up to me and took my arm and linked it into his and started to walk off - we for all the world looking like an old married couple!!   In my fractured French tried to explain I was married and pointed frantically at Andy.   Andy scurried over but all was o.k.   He was just a charming man.  Most unusual approach though and at my age!     Andy did take a photo of us with linked arms but it doesn't seem to have made it to the our web site  - wonder why.

 

Thurday 18th August

Had planned a 'lay day' but woke to cooler temperatures and overcast skies so decided to travel.  First went to Bonaguil Castle -  immense place - first started in the 13th Century and added to in the 14th and 15th.  Wonder if there are any other castles larger in the world.  Spent 1.5 hours there and then the heat started again and because of all the climbing of towers etc we were starving so headed off to the Jeanne Murat's Restaurant at Pomerade.   Andy gave me a book written by the Australian, Mary Moody, which tells the history of 3-4 generations of owners of the restaurant.  The history and the style of restaurant sounded fascinating.   When we were seated we were brought a pitcher of water and a litre of red wine.  No discussion had taken place regarding if we drank alcohol, wine or in fact red wine!   Also no discussion on price.  We were next presented with a tureen of vegetable soup including thin pasta.  It was delicious and had to restrain from having too many serves as from the book new there were to be several more courses.  Next farm fresh melon (canteloupe) + terrine and cornichons + slices of saucisson.  Next braised rolled porc with shallots - + haricot vertes (thin beans) and the best pomme frites - not thin - not greasy - I've ever had.  Just wonderful.   By now the litre of red is only 1/2 empty as we have been so focused on the food.  Next a huge slice of Bleu d'Auvergne and Cantal Cheddar + a small slice of camembert.  All served with excellent rustic bread.  We have 'died and gone to heaven'  but there was more!!   A choice between glace, tarte de poire or creme brulee.  Couldn't resist the latter.   Again, perfection with nicely crisped/caramelized top and creamy underneath.  Just the perfect quantity as served in shallow, small, eathernware dishes.   After all this came the cafe.  And L'Addition??   Just E13 each!   The best meal and best value to date.

To digest all this walked around the village of Pomerade which is a charming, small village.   A few kms down the road was Puy L'Eveque - had a look at a restaurant R&S had recommended - Henri's Hotel Restaurant.   Views over the Lot from here are spectacular.  Then on to Fumel - very nice Chateaue over looking the Lot with a nicely landscaped garden.

 

19th August

'Lay Day'.   Watered the garden - did the washing - did the ironing.   Played 'French housewife'.

 

20th August

Went to Lauzerte to meet Andy's brother's friend Paul. Superb medieval town on the top of a hill.  Very classy and suspect quite expensive to live there.  Was market day.  Actually bought Vietnamese Spring Rolls at the market to have as a snack with drinks.  Sat outside the incredibly picturesque bar that Paul goes to on Friday nights for live music.   After a drink moved on to another bar in the town square.  Paul gave us the 'inside' on the locals and several UK expats.  Interesting gossip.  Back to his house about 15 minutes drive from Lauzerte.  He has a spectacular view over a beautiful valley and a very nice swimming pool.   The house is 'work in progress' and when complete should be very comfortable.   Paul was saying alot of English are now returning to the UK as their pension in pounds is suffering vis a vis the Euro.  Therefore he expects property in the area (alot of UK expats) to get cheaper and cheaper.

7.30pm , back in Pujols, we went to 'supper' at lady L's place.  She is the widow of a former CEO of Colgate Palmolive and the house and contents are stunning.  Pre-dinner drinks were served on a gorgeous terrace overlooking the valley and down to a huge garden and swimming pool.   Taittenger Champagne!  Supper was served in a 600 year old+ dining room with an enormous fire place that one could have stood upright in!  A grand old painting occupied the entire area of 1 wall.    Food was excellent and the wine outstanding.  At least one Chateau Margeaux - heard '1994' mentioned.  Seafood salad -  lamb tagine - mango tart and the cheese course was the biggest camembert or brie I've ever seen.  Around the size of a child's bicycle wheel!    We were joined by L's daughter and French husband plus one UK lady plus a UK couple and their daughter.   Today was 40 + degrees and at 10pm having coffee and liquers on L's terrace was the first time we felt a waft of breeze.    A very memorable and enjoyable evening.

 

21st August

Sunday and market day for Pujols.  This time in the village it is all pottery and the normal market has relocated to the car park..  Bought a silver bracelet/arm band and although tempted by the pottery decided it was too fragile to travel the distance to Oz.   Today still so hot decided not to travel but focus on watering the garden.   This is a big task as so many indoor plants, window boxes and potted plants.  Have booked to go to St Jean du Luz - near Spain, for Wednesday and Thursday night as the temperatures are forecasted to be lower and weather cloudy.  Already the fuschias are looking stressed and have had to re-locate these out of the sun.  

Wonderful lunch at home in the charming courtyard of Lapin terrine, tomato and basil, radishes (as you only see them in France), white asparagus, lettuce, fresh beetroot (this you can buy peeled and cooked in the markets), fresh walnuts and goats cheese salad - bliss!.   We didn't even need a baguette.  Couple of roses and white wines and then a siesta.  It's now 7pm and still too hot to water!!

 

22nd August

Headed off today to visit Monpazier.  Decided to take the back road and stumbled across Chateau Biron.  An amazing place.  Was privately owned until 1978.  Then went to Monpazier another medieval village.  Very attractive town square with cloistered stone pedestrian pathways around the square.  Similar to some towns in Switzerland.  Very interesting shops.  Andy bought 2 linen shirts for E35 each (around Aud 46).   I bought a colourful light top for E32 and the big splash out was an individually tailored pair of pants for E135.   Went back to Biron for a set lunch for E13 (Aud 17) -  onion soup, chicken, cheese, peach sabayon + a pitchet of rose!   Amazing value.  Second best to Madam Morat's at Pomarede.

This area is the Dordogne / Perigord region and the architecture and scenery has subtley changed from the Lot valley.  Still very picturesque but not as lush.

BBQ pork on skewers in the courtyard at Pujols for dinner.  Continues to be very hot and we are quite worried about going away for 2 nights because of the garden.  There are ferns and fuschias that are of the major concern.  We have Evian and Perrier water in bottles ( only around 20cents each here) which we will put in the sensitive pots.

 

23rd August

Nice long sleep to 9.30 a.m. and then pot watering - washing and ironing.  It's still hot but not 30 degrees +++ - probably around 28 degrees. Today we take Poppy to the cattery and have a domestic day in preparation for 2 nights at St Jean de Luz on the border of Spain.  The temperatures are predicted to drop to mid to high 20s and to be overcast. 

If not mentioned before wine is incredibly cheap.  Typically pay around E4.50 per bottle (Aud 6.00) and it's good quality!   Water - Perrier and Evian are extraordinarly cheap compared to Australia.  White anchovies are only Aud 4.0!   All food seems extremely cheap vs. Oz.   R pays just E22 a quarter for gas.  It's cheaper to buy bottled gas than mains gas.  Petrol is more expensive but the Peugot takes diesel and for the entire stay we only needed to fill up twice. 

It's now 8.30pm, sitting in the courtyard surrounded by R&S's wonderful garden.  Andy had pizza from the cafe 2 minutes walk away - which he enjoyed.  I had egg on baguette with anchovies.  This with a superb bottle of Domaine du Prince - Cahors 2007 - only 12% alcohol.   Can drink alot more wine here as alcohol content is significantly lower then in Oz e.g. 12%  vs. 15-16%.   Slight cooling of breeze so hopefully it will cool down and the garden will not suffer in our abscence.   We have taken alot of trouble to protect the delicate plants though.

 

24th August

Got up very early - shut up the shutters and had a rather boring 3.5 hours, including a picnic, drive via Mont-De-Marsan and Dax.  Driving into St Jean du-Luz was very busy and then the nightmare of looking for a parking spot while keeping a look out for our hotel - Marie-Christine started.  All paying car parks were  'complete' i.e. full.  Andy started making mistakes and cars tooted which just made the stress worse.  After about 30 minutes drove to the hospital car park and at last some luck.  A car left it's spot just as we arrived.  Added bonus was that there was no fee to pay. Because of this we decided not to drive anywhere - which would limit our travel in Spain to the train 

Next stress was finding the hotel while lugging bags and back packs.  Another 40 minutes later we found Marie Christine which turned out to be about 10 minutes walk from our car!   Of course we had, in ignorance, taken the long route.  The room is smart but tiny and has the smallest double bed I've seen.   The St Jean du-Luz harbour is magnificent but the town is jam packed with tourists and to exacerbate this an enormous tourist ship is moored off shore.  Jus so overwhelming to see so many people in one place.  Makes Pujols tourist trade seem minor.  Good shops but hard to get any time in any - always on the go (read Andy not keen on 'shopping'!)  Sometimes one just longs to have a girlfriend about.   Next stress was in our desperation for lunch we ate at the worst tapas place we have had the misfortune to visit - just disgusting - oh! for Bar Lourinha in Melbourne!.   For dinner made the mistke of going to a restaurant with a sea view in the tourist district.  Andy enjoyed his meal o.k. but my main course of minced veal and tiny but of green pepper left much to be desired.  Enjoyed our bottle of Spanish red - Riolja.    Not a great start to the 2 nights away.

 

25th August

Up early again for an o.k. breakfast.at the hotel.   I brought my own nectarines and they served excellent yoghurt  and this all went nicely together.   Coffee good but pastries and baguettes awful.  How can they do this in France?   Charming room though.  

Caught a train to Hendaye and changed to a Spanish train.  30 minute ride from Hendaye to San Sebastian.   Here a very similar water front to St Jean du-Luz but on a much larger scale and superb with a back drop of the Pyrenees.  Not day today so the beach was crowded.  Architecture very different to the Lot valley as we are in the Basque country.

Visited the old town as recommended but our first (and only as it transpired), Spanish tapas bar stop was away from the tourist throng and inhabited by locals.  Iturrioz - Aldamar 12, 20003 Donostia  ph:  943 435 884 - www.baritturioz.com.    Superb white wine for me - baby tasty green chilies(not hot) on a skewer with a big fat green olive on the end - anchovies and wonderful light, crunchy bread.  Although it was very tasty we weren't sure what constituted the 3rd selection and mine host's English, although better than our Spanish, didn't help the identification. Because we anticipated ( at least I did) lots more of these bars we decided not to fill up here but to move on.   Walked around the old town which was full of tourists then finally decided on a restaurant away on the edge of the business area.  We were very lucky to get the last table for 2 - the rest had been booked by locals.   Great food and large servings - washed down with another glass of the excellent Spanish Riolja red wine but more refined that the one had the previous evening.   The restaurant was not open for serving until 1.0pm.  Until 1.30pm we were the only patrons, yet curiously all the other tables were reserved.  Between 2.30pm and 2.45pm those with reservations started flocking in.   No wonder they don't eat dinner until 10pm!   -  Strongly recommend the restaurant to have pleasant ambience, very tasty food and to feel part of the local scene.   Restaurante Aldanondo Jatetxea,   Euskal-Errin, 6 Bajo  20003 San Sebastian   ph:  943 422 852.

Unfortunately I have developed a very sor throat and the strepsils I've bought haven't helped at all.  Got back to the hotel around 5.30pm.  Tonight we are in an 'upgraded' room E20 more - on the 2nd floor with 2 single beds and a bathroom - not as good as the cheaper one we had last night!  Now sitting in the rather charming courtyard drinking beer out of cans as have noo glases and no staff available.  Not sure if I can eat or if I want to.  Up early tomorrow for the homeward journey.  All a bit much really - feel exhausted but that maybe me being unwell.

 

26th August

Had a very bad night - pillow like a rock and my throat is extremely painful even when not talking or swallowing.  Sweated alot over night so think I have a temperature. Huge drive home via St Jean Pied a Pont - very picturesque old village in the foot hills of the Pyrenees - had hoped to get 4 more place mats to match the 2 Basque linen mats Eleanor had brought me back from here last trip. unfortunately they only had serviettes and they are huge.  Bought 4 contrasting mats.  Basque tea towels for Eleanor and Lyn - couple for us + hand towels.  Felt  too ill to do justice to the great shops in the town.  The scenery has been stunning - again reminding me of Switzerland. Unfortunately I could only stay awake for a few minutes at a time - could barely talk - dreadful for Andy driving and navigating.  Just outside Argen the skies opened and a most monumental downpour occurred. We had to pull over as visibility was next to nil.  Memories of Malyasia.
Collected Poppy at around 6pm so a long day - 9am to 6pm driving!
There has been rain in Pujols the last 2 days so a great relief to see the gardens is o.k.   Managed some soup and went straight to bed.  A very painful way to lose weight!

27th August

Last night Andy made me a hot toddy of cognac-honey-lemon - very  hot and with that to sip and a comfortable bed slept like a log and woke feeling a lot better.  Throat is still very sore but only when I swallow and can now talk painlessly.
Liz Indrans arrives at Paul's today from Switzerland and have invited them for lunch tomorrow.  Went to Villneuve sur Lot market. Although picturesque prefer the market at Pujols.  Bought a chicken for E12.90 - they are yellow and sold with their heads on - rather confronting.  Had lunch at the cafe in Pujol and it was most  enjoyable.  Sitting outside under an umbrella - a bottle of rose in a very practical 'ice-bag' - clear plastic filled with ice and cold water.  We will try to buy one.  As haven't been able to eat for a couple of days felt I could eat lasagne and it was superb - very light.     Had dinner in the garden.

 

28th August

Paul brought Liz and her girlfriend, Eve to Pujols.  Tghey ahd a good look round the market and then we had a very slow, long, liesurely lunch with lots of rose.  Andy's melon-cucumber and goat's cheese salad, then BBQ sardines - superb and huge.  I had cooked the chicken in the oven yesterday and had this + jambon with beetroot salad (buy fresh ones cooked at the supermarket) - green bean salad.   For dessert peeled nectarines with goat yoghurt and finally coffee with prunes in dark chocolate.  Liz and I went to the shop - 2 minutes away to buy these while Andy made the coffee.  A memorable lunch for lots of reasons.   Around 5pm we walked around the village and farwelled our guests.  Was quite sad saying goodbye to Paul as we have only had 3 times together but he has endeared himself by being a pleasant and sensitive soul.   Liz and Eve are delightful and appear very competant and I am sure their travels will continue to be memorable - to date they have had overnight in Seoul, few days in Rome - 6 day cruise along the coast of Croatia - visited Sarah in Switzerland and now France  - all in under a month!!.  They are thinking Bordeaux next and not sure after that.

 

29th August

As my throat is still a little sore and my energy levels not 100% decided to stay home and do garden and home maintenance.  On our way back from St Jean de Luz Andy bought Marte (the dearl elderley lady opposite Richard and Sandys) a Basque cherry cake.  Today, as I was de-heading the petunias and geraniums in the window boxes I heard 'Madam',  'Madame.  Oh no, I thought , as Marte doesn't speak English.  I fumbled along - basically she was saying 'gateaux tre bon'  - 'here is foie gras canard' and she handed ma tin of foi gras that she had made herself.  Just so generous@@  Hopefully my gratitude came across by facial expressions.
Trimmed and dead headed plants and generally cleaned up house, then off to a huge shop - $117 to replace stuff we had used and stock the booze fridge. We bought at supermarket Auchon  2 ice bags  for E4.90.   Had Vietnamese take away for lunch - a huge disappointment at E23 and very ordinary.  Today is sublime weather - warm - cosseting and not too hot for a change.  Andy watered so we are well organised for Richard and Sandy's return.  It's now 7.40pm and have yet to start the ironing!  The courtyard is so delightful with a wealth of different plants -n roses blooming and dozens I don't know - hard to wrench one's way away to the ironing board.

 

30th August

Had planned to go to Bergerac etc but only realised late yesterday that Richard and Sandy return tomorrow!!  Had lost track of time.   Cleared the house and did some more watering and the;n had a wondreful lunch at the Smeralda Restaurant in Pujols.