We just published our photographic book. Take a look, a full preview is available for free.
The comprises 30 pages of full color images on 30 pages and dust jacket.
Be interested in any comments you have too.
We just published our photographic book. Take a look, a full preview is available for free.
The comprises 30 pages of full color images on 30 pages and dust jacket.
Be interested in any comments you have too.
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That’s the question, why Namibia?
With the thousands of images I have returned with, it will be quite a while before I get through them all. So, this will be an evolving blog. It will be updated progressively.
And back to the “more than a few reasons;
Landscapes, I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything like what Namibia has to offer;
Sossusvlei dunes are breathtaking. Dead Vlei and Hidden Vlei are so immense and stunning
Touring photographers cast shadow on golden sand dunes.
Then there’s the Quiver Tree Forest with it’s unworldly aloes scattered randomly across a rugged rocky terrain;
Wildlife, big cats, Lions and cheetahs in particular, there’s more to come of these;
Flight of the flamingos at Swakopmund as sun sets over wetland
We came across these lions, him & her, not long after they had made their kill. Here feasting happily together. We went back next morning and watched him take charge and drag the rest of the carcass away from her. She then left the scene and headed to a water hole about a kilometer away, as the crow flies, where we came across her again.
All creatures great and small;
Small desert adapted lizard and a shy palmato lizard poking its head out of the sand
What about the people;
Portrait of traditional tribal woman holding child.
Dancing in the tribal way. The Himba people in their small remote village and woman sitting outside shack (below)
And finally some birds in flight, Southern Yellow Hronbill, pale chanting goshawk and lilac breasted roller below.
We head off for a family week on Koh Samui as the first of 2 Thai stops.
A 40 minute drive from airport see’s us at our villa for the week. A lovely place and it would prove to be a great stay. Magnificent and always cooperative staff make a huge difference.
A visit to the market seems essential activity in this part of world.
The Samui Sunday night market fills a couple of hours. Typical bustle of toursists and vendors. No redeeming aspects here
The bottles of 40 baht motorcycle gasoline must have all sold out. The rack is empty. Although along the little sparsely populated road to our accommodation there’s about another 6 or so ramshackle sheds, shops etc that also sell the fuel by the bottle.
Morning walks along the beach are ever interesting. Sunrise is delayed by cloudy horizons most mornings while we are here. A small fleet of longtail fishing boats is moored a little way along. Above a silhouetted fisherman prepares for the day. Looking the other direction a light mist shrouds the shore, boats and distant islands.
Typical tropical island beach lined with coconut palms on another cloudy morning but later Blue sky and water highlight and reflect a classic fishing boat.
Buddhist culture dominates of course with shrines and pagoda all around. this pagoda is on the beach a few minutes walk from our fabulous accommodation. We’ve spent a week with our wonderful family here enjoying every minute of it. Can only say a great big thanks for the organisation, time and memories here and for the generous celebration and gift.
Our 1st week comes to an end tomorrow and we head off to capture some of the scenes and life in northern part of the country.
There’ll be no more SUPing, kayaking or beach walks at our next stop.
Next stop Chiang Mai
The streets of Chiang Mai are full of colour and vibrance, not to mention people and spots to eat or markets to buy everything from copy art to clothing and souvenirs. See more photos at;
Temples, chedi and Buddhist cultural paraphernalia are everywhere.
Some more urban street scenes;
Germany, land of engineering excellence, great cars, historic cities, good wine, tons of photographic opportunities, and reluctantly I have to say, disappointing coffee.
Arrived in Munich by train, about 40 minutes late. Not that it mattered much to us, but it’s interesting for me at least to find that the German reputation for efficiency and service is not all to be believed. The trains we’ve been on have a comparatively low level of facility, ie mostly no wifi, no extras, bottles of water etc, and then late on this last trip. You can see it’s all adding up.
Did our usual city wander by afternoon then out for a cheap meal, and a short stroll after dark.
Our hotel has absolutely crap wifi service. The worst we’ve experienced anywhere on tour. It is handy location-wise albeit interestingly in “Little Arabia”. Walking distance to station and central city points of interest.
Took the train to Dachau this morning. Spent several hours at the concentration camp memorial. What an experience. Man, what those poor buggers had to put up with at the mercy of the Nazi’s is beyond comprehension. We have all gotten to believe this anyway, but seeing this memorial, a really well presented museum with tons of imagery and information boards was a really moving experience. Overwhelming. Could only take about a third of it in. That was enough. Another city walk tonight. Munich is another really interesting city, historically, architecturally and culturally.
Corridor and and cell interior through inspection opening in door from corridor of bunker block
The BMW Museum is a worthwhile experience for any visitor to Munich. About 15 minutes from central station and you arrive at the BMW plant, museum and BMW Welt (World). The cars, company history and the marvelous architecture will ensure you find this an interesting outing regardless of your auto enthusiasm.
Arriving at these peak tourist attractions is a hectic experience. Usually 2 or 4 buses seem to have heard we’ll be there and arrive simultaneously disgorging the thousands (or so it seems) tourists all jostling for prime position with their forest of selfie-sticks waving in the breeze. Yuk!
the architecture and cars are equally impressive. Sorry no photos of cars, but you know what they look like.
Last day in Munich. Rained all night, still drizzling when we arise. Being Sunday everything closed, except McDonalds. So that’s our breakfast venue.
Then we walk in the drizzle to the Pinakothek der Moderne, What a wonderful gallery. Art, installations and the interior architecture defy the what from the spartan outside concrete block construction. Then the afternoon is filled with a walk through the English Gardens. What a feature to have in middle of city. Rivers, creeks, trees, fields and of course people. As rain stops becomes quite pleasant, though still overcast and cold. High today 14. Have had up to 26 over the last week.
So, once again we training, Munich to Stuttgart. Once on and settled very relaxed way to travel.
Scenery changes from urban/industrial on outskirts of Munich to attractive rural and back to industrial as we approach Stuttgart about 2 hours later.
Once into hotel we head off for a walk around city, and back for the evening drinks in our room. The usual cheap as hell bottle of wine and cheeze and crackers. the latter have to be cleaned up on the night we buy them due to the fact that most accommodation in this part of the world provides neither fridges nor tea and coffee making facilities in your room. At this time I’m in for another disappointment. The hotel, Novum Boulevard in city centre, bills as it’s top benefit free high speed wifi. Well, its the worst. Thought the last place set the record for that, bugger me, no this one leaves it for dead. I give up after an hour. At almost 10.00 pm I manage to successfully logon. Then it takes over 10 minutes to upload this web page to the stage above this paragraph. Sure as hell makes me want to revert to snail mail. Could have bloody near walked home with the message in the time wasted on this, and the hotel doesn’t want to know. Claim no one else has complained.. agggah.
Stuttgart has a city population of about 600,000 and a wider metropolitan number about 6 mill. Of course its the home of Mercedes, Porsche, to name the obvious. Weather deteriorates and limits our activities to wandering the city streets.
And on last day venturing by train to the Mercedes Museum.
Worth the effort. Weather a little inclement, windy, cool and odd spot of rain. Mercedes have integrated a history lesson into the evolution of their brand. Well done, though we both think the BMW experience was more embracing.
So Stuttgart ends our 2017 European tour. We fly out at 7.45 tomorrow, means getting to airport at about 5.45. Asking hotel reception for a 4.30 wake up call elicits an incredulous response, but our request is eventually accepted.
We leave the land of biergartens, pretzels and crap coffee with enough photos to keep us busy for next six months. In case you are wondering the wifi hasn’t improved either. For a country thats an engineering world leader, produces some of the best autos money can buy we are left wondering why they haven’t put the same energy into the little things like useful wifi, decent coffee, trains with facilities that match those in other countries we’ve travelled.
Otherwise, been really enjoyable, lots to see, lots more in fact than we’ve gotten to, and lots to learn. The history, as you surely know is amazing for us little antipodeans.
So for now it’s auf wiedersehen,
Yes, truly the city of sights. The architecture, the historic buildings, castles and churches,the streetscapes, the scenic river, and the fairyland by night, truly the city of sights.
Our intro to Prague is probably not the first thing that’s remembered by most visitors.
Picked up at train station and delivered to our accommodation we’re greeted before even getting in the door by the owner, Kristina. An effervescent lady and so full of information, she should really be Prague’s tourism ambassador. Coffee in hand she quickly settles into redrawing the city map with helpful notations and small pictures. Brilliant assistance that proved to be. The Aparthotel in Prague is a 20 minute walk from centre, if that’s not a problem it’s my 5 star recommendation. A “boutique hotel” with a wonderfully friendly, fun and super-helpful owner. excellent continental breakfasts are reasonable price to boot. Kristina’s more of a host than a hotel operator.
Following our induction to Prague, dropping our bags we head off on the first recommended walk, into the Old Town and Charles Bridge. I’d read the best time to “see” the Charles Bridge was about 6 in morning. We learn why. It’s chokka full of those pesky tourists who are always in my way when I’m shooting, peddlers selling their pictures, jewelry, and other sundry items. Shoulder to shoulder we march back and forth before heading into the town.
I get up early next morning and head back. Certainly not too many people there, but clearly others had read the same info I had. A few hundred people now scattered waiting for the perfect shot of sunrise over the monumental east end tower. Of course a maintenance crew had to drive the Goddam big truck, park right in the middle and proceed to carry out some repair or other. Nice for those who’d got up early and made effort to get there ahead of the crowds, including the 3 wedding groups there for the photos of their lifetime.
Evening street scenes.
As with all tourist hot spots restaurants are everywhere. Of course we are in a foreign land and so the things usual to us don’t always apply. Like in may parts of Europe when you order a meal they deliver a basket of bread, sure its often dry, like it’s about 3 days old. I guess its not really, but certainly it different for us. Here’s a beaut in getting caught out though;
We pick a restaurant at one end on Wenceslas Square. Not one of the ones above. Now I know you’ll likely say serves you right for restauranting in the mid of the tourist centre as opposed to heading out a little. After being dragged in by the staff at the menu board, we sit down, eventually someone arrives to take our order. Anne has been repeating herself all day about wanting to try traditional Czech food. Firstly, parched after a day long wander in 25+degrees we seek a gin and soda. 3 minutes of discussion in broken English/Czech (which we are totally inadequate at) we learn the flat soda is extra. Oh well, need it. Then the food order is being placed. A chicken dish is ordered, at which the waitress turns the menu page points to and says you need bread too, NO not needed says Anne. You must its compulsory and it’s 100 koruna. This EU member doesn’t use the Euro as standard currency. Then shrugging and giving up on that , we’re told the stands of pretzel sticks on the table are for us, complimentary, well that’s what we believed was said. Not being fans of these anyway, we take one each, nibble the end and deposit the balance on a plate. Then “compulsory bread” arrives, its one little bun with a wedge of butter. Be thankful for small mercies my mother used to say, in this case the small mercy was the butter, not that the bun was big, it wasn’t. and it had an exterior as hard as an Amsterdam madam. Would have been easier to eat concrete! The fun of travel. For the rest of it meal was ok though. Then came the bill. Gin, water, bread, meals,and bloody pretzels all accounted for. No discount for fact the pretzels were still largely intact! What would travel be without these stories? Then came the stand-over tactics. On bottom of bill comment tips are optional and 3 sets of tip calculations for our convenience. Actually, when we arrived we’re told can pay with card for food and drink, tips must be cash. This was repeated at least 3 times during our meal. I pay on card and the waitress stands there saying tips must be in cash, again and again. I nod sagely, I understand, so? She ain’t going anywhere. Tips are optional the message says. Seems to us she’s saying “like hell”. So I fish into my pocket and pull out coins that must amount to about 50% of the minimum helpful calculation and put them down. She glares disapprovingly at my coins. I say no other cash. She “gracefully” grabs them and says thank you very much as she rushes off to the next set of suckers.
A “fun” experience, but I must say way from typical here. Generally, very courteous and friendly and they try hard.
We’ve had two beautiful, though hot, cloudless days in a row, we’ve seen a lot of fantastic historic buildings, walked a million miles and got lost in the old city late at night, twice and Anne is still on about a traditional Czech meal, not sure of the connection, but thought I’d mention it anyway. We head out to Vysehrad a top of a hill significant Gothic church, magnificent little graveyard full of Czech notables (dead of course), and a chance to catch a sunset. Another excellent suggestion by Kristina. After a climb, a wander through the graves and a wait for a sunset that didn’t eventuate (that’s nature for you). We head down to a restaurant we passed on way up stating it provided traditional food. The menu looked interesting, but turns out without a booking no chance at 8.00 pm of getting in. Bugger. Walk on, come across another where judging from what we can hear all the diners are local. Seems worth a try. On the menu are these things we’ve seen on menus everywhere – dumplings. I decide it’s time, dumplings with roast pork. Well they duly arrive, interesting but you’d have to be hungrier than me. Anyway the meal was pretty good and reasonable.
We are at Prague Castle for changing of the guard.
Our wanders expose us to streets and streets of wonderful old European architecture.
Old Town night scenes we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to “free run” (get lost in Anne’s terms)
With a little impressionist input, an almost fairy-world look to the Old Town Square cathedral.
So much to see here. Today wandered past a church with crypt under. In we went. Turns out it was the church crypt that Czech soldiers hid in after their assassination of a SS commander and where the Nazi’s hunted them down and shot them. Incredible history.
Architectural detail is everywhere
And at the other end of the square to our now fabled dining experience;
An interesting public art piece in entrance to the Dancing Building.
Like much of the continent, use of public toilets incurs a fee. By the time you find one the need has often become urgent, if not critical. There’s usually someone standing in your way right when you least appreciate it, asking for 50 krona. As you fumble for your money/wallet and wait for the change the fear that your pants may be employed for something you’d rather they weren’t. No photos of this though!
The more one wanders, the more one sees. And we have seen so much more, but this is hopefully a small expose to our experiences in Prague
architecture, Berlin, Brandenburg Gate, brian scantlebury, brianscantlebury.com, buildings, Dutch, Film Museum, German, Germany, history, Holland, modern architecture, Netherlands, photography, photos, Potsdam, Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag, Rotterdam, Spree, travel
Train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam is not a long journey. Certainly worth the effort.
Departing and travelling through essentially rural land, farms interspersed with small villages and farm cottages and buildings. Can’t help but be impressed by flatness of land which is divided not by fences but irrigation drains.
Rotterdam is a delight. I reckon a must do, if you’re visiting this part of the world especially if historic and modern architecture is of any interest. Could have done with a few more days there, but hopefully we got to the main points of interest. But did encounter a couple of surprises.
Any interest in architecture, especially modern and quirky, will be piqued in this city.
Public art plays a big art in the Rotterdam urban landscape. There are some 200 pieces on permanent display around the city. Here’s a couple.
An interesting experience, that could have become frightening, saw us approached by well dressed man asking the name of the area we were in at the time. He persisted with his enquiry then out of the blue two tall also suited men arrived from nowhere, said they were police, had swingers around their necks intended to convey some official role. They asked for our passports. Uh oh. Immediately we started to move away with me saying we didn’t believe them. at this they said OK, and walked off. A scam to watch out for.
So for the next day and some relief from the city walking and such intrusions we head to the Kinderdijk area and the windmills so synonymous with the Netherlands.
There are other scenic aspects of Rotterdam worthy of ones time to enjoy too.
Gardens, historic buildings, museums, galleries and the river combine to make this amost interesting city.
And like the rest of the country, bicycles and ubiquitous, but here’s what apparently happens if you lock yours where you shouldn’t.
Note the little sign on post above the handle bars!
Speaking about security, on our last night got a message from our foreign affairs ministry advising extreme caution. There had been a terror alert for the city and a rock concert for some American band with the stupid name of Allah-Las cancelled. Saw little of no evidence of the problem on way to the station. Guess this is just part of life for now.
Advice if travelling to Rotterdam and have any interest in art and architecture, allow more time, or run everywhere. For m, much of the fun of travel is all about the unexpected, the things that catch you and the things that go wrong. Well not much has here, but here’s a travel travel tip for Rotterdam. Our hotel is part of a chain, large modern property. It’s as hot as hell and I can’t find the aircon control. Ask at reception only to be told, oh no you’ve you’ve booked a standard room. You’ll need to upgrade for to have that. Now I know why it’s called airCON. Bit like Air New Zealand, they are stripping services and then offering them back at additional cost. Huh, conned again.
Back to the train, en-route to Berlin. Orderly crops in rural Holland. Interestingly, to me anyway, about the time we crossed the border the orderliness of the Dutch landscape became a disheveled rural outlook. This smoothed scene from the train disguises the real look.
In a couple of stops we are joined by Andreas.
A doctor in zoology it turns out, who is very helpful confirming Anne’s plans for Berlin and adding a few ideas as well.
Berlin, graffiti city. Its everywhere. Why its put up with I cannot workout. Great shame.The city presents us with a series of contrasts, the old and new, the historic and the ultra-modern, the historic and the graffiti vandalism and amazing memorials and museums relating to WW2 and the fall of Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.
Another must see if you visit Berlin is the town of Potsdam, about 45 minute train ride away. Believing we were headed to a little town that we could take in in a few hours we trained there. Really a few days would have been the proper option. It’s population is about 170,000, its is another film centre and has some amazing castles or the like, with significant Nazi SS history. Well worth an allocation of a lot more time than we gave it. Wish we’d known more before going.
For our final night we strolled 2-4 k’s to the Potsdamer Platz area for dinner in the Sony Centre and some more night street and architecture photos then by the Gate and Reichstag again
Leaving Berlin, the realisation that the number of museum, memorials and galleries collectively deserve a reasonably long stay. As always there so much more to see.
There’s so much about war and the wall you could fill a week or more just an that, and there’s so much more. Got to walk part of museum island yesterday and see what could only be called a huge exercise in propaganda last night as we passed the Reichstag. Billed as a light show in the government area (images above “projected light show” captions) it was a series of speeches by important governmental people, some English sub-titling indicated a high level of _”look what Germany has achieved and how great we are” Ra-ra stuff for sure.
Standby for the next missive. Prague, Vienna, Salzburg before back to Germany.
Just watching an item on the Coffin Club. No real reason to mention this other than its on BBC and the club is an NZ club. Embarrassingly corny.
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Amsterdam, capital city, city for art and so many renown artists, famous for bicycles (more than people) the roof gable styles, cheese shops and where the streets are paved with litter and cigarette butts. Guess 6 mill tourists don’t help either.
Then there’s the plethora of vegetable shops.Strange thing tho’, they seem to only sell variety. Its a strange looking small green leaf. Seed shops too, but none of the common old garden variety flower seeds! Reckon these strange shop account for about 99.98% of the 6 mill visitors.
Grey skies dominate the days here as do bicycles, lots of walking, museums and galleries. An art lovers dream come true.
Our cabbie informed us the theft problem is so great that you only see old bikes. You can often buy your bike back late at night on the street, apparently. Noticed many are made to look worse by being sprayed with rusty looking paint or bright colours.
The streets are seething with some of the 6 mill, not to mention the odd local I guess. At the moment students are everywhere as their year starts. Raucous buggers they are as the enjoy their first week.
First night wanderings see us accidentally in the De Walletjes (Red light) district as we head home after a meal.
Night scenes always proved some interesting challenges and often turn up some stunning images. Some early ones as we rush back to our digs. The National Monument in Dam Square, dark back street and reflected lights along a canal start the collection.
The canals are as busy as the roads. There must be 10’s thousands canal boats plying the miles of canals though these images don’t show it there really is, mainly for
tourists availing themselves of different day and night cruise services.
The Rijks Museum collection and archives date back to 1800. A phenomenally large collection of art and objects of real significance. This is one of many incredible galleries.
The popularity of the this city and its galleries means that if you don’t book about 6 months ahead you are destined to waste a large part of your time here, if not your life, in goddam queues. For the Rijks Museum we spent about 40 mins in line in the rain for a good part of it waiting to get to the next queue. Yep, once in the door you then queue again for your tickets, another 20-30 minutes down the dunny, and if that’s not enough, bags and tripods (and of course I have both) are not permitted in, so another friggin line for 15-20 minutes to turn them in. Thankfully only about 10 minutes queuing need to retrieve my gear after a few hours inside. Inside this beautiful building I concluded it must have been designed by an artist, not an architect, finding your way round even using provided and google maps sees more time lost. And as you’d expect after all the waiting is that its pretty busy inside too, but that’s managable.
And the find of the trip so far; cheese shops. Mentioned them before, but these genuinely do compete numerically with women’s shoe shops in this city. But it gets better. They mostly offer tastings. So in what has already become an end of day ritual we assist a number of them to dispose of their chopped up curdy offerings. I’m in heaven. The sore feet, the wet backs, the tired and overloaded minds and senses all vanish at least temporarily while at great personal sacrifice I work to restrain Anne’s headlong rush from platter to platter!!!!!
A walk around including the Saturday Albert Cuypmarket provided opportunity for
a Dutch waffle. Couldn’t resist, following which kinda wished I had more willpower.
More Amsterdam architecture;
Along with the big renown galleries there a many lesser known places showing well known artists. Some we’ve visited include Banksy and Dali in one venue, then on our last day here Warhol and a collection of other pop-artists in another. Great stuff.
It;s been another full immersion in the streets of Amsterdam to conclude our time here. Dinner tonight, a sleep the on the train and outta here. Rotterdam here we come.
Some street scenes to conclude,
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Enjoyed sharing some of our experiences and photos as we travelled and shot over last 8-10 weeks, hope we haven’t bored you with it all. Have tried to keep the Instagram shots different to those shared here, and hope if you are following those Instagram images (which find their way to facebook, twitter, google+ & LinkedIn) you’ll see another side of our photography and add to what we could put into these blogs.
Certainly getting colder now. Can tell, not just in my bones but in the colours of the leaves.
These are from a smallish town that might have talked of previously, they have a great market each week, and it is the home of that not so wonderful cafe experience mentioned last time! otherwise a lovely place, Pezenas.
We got to London for the weekend. Great opportunity to catch up with the family there, see Michael’s (Impero Design) new offices and pick up a few shots. Thanks guys for looking after us so well.
These are from Olympic Park in London. The AcerlorMittal Orbit red steel sculpture is apparently the highest sculpture in the UK. Views from top are panoramic London. The fine silver spiral tube in the image is a recently added slide. Quick way to get to the bottom, about 40 seconds. The screams (not sure if they were of delight) we heard reinforced our wimpy decision to take the lift, about 45 seconds too.
The historic city of Carcassonne has been left to the end of our time here. Main interest here is La Cite Medievale, the historic walled city and castle atop a hill adjacent to the “modern city”. Getting via the secondary routes rather than the main highways there is through more ancient, and not so ancient, villages, plane tree and vineyard lined country roads and along canals and past locks.
Carcassonne is like so many of the old cities, narrow streets, old buildings, some wonderful, many not, cafes that you are lucky to get a coffee and never find something to eat in and although the height of the tourist season is over, we make up the bulk of the people wandering about. Rugby is everywhere in this part of France. From people wearing jerseys on the streets to shops selling the clothing. We come across a Serge Blanco shop (followers will recall his great contribution to French rugby, now he’s got a chain of retail fashion rugby clothing shops) to a chain called “Otago” would you believe, just a couple of doors along.
In the old city on the hill, across the old bridge and obviously older river, there’s the place everyone comes to see. The walled city, castle and cathedral. I guess to make these places pay they need to fill them up with tourist shops and restaurants. Same here. Many the tacky not so nice shops and “authentic” French pizza restaurants. To be fair, here there a a few classier shops. We roam eventually getting to the cathedral where we are treated to a tenor quartet in the stunning acoustics these remarkable buildings have.
We fill the bulk of our day here then decide to head back for dinner and some night shots.
Minerve, an historic village perched on a rock outcrop in the middle of Gorge Du Brian (Anne suggests a not too liberal translation is Gorgeous Brian and who am I to argue with Anne!) high in the mountains over the river Cesse in a fork with the Le Brian.
An interesting stop.
How the hell they built these fortified villages in the spots where only a mountain goat could go still defies my small mind. Like all these places it was the site of many a battle in ages past.The village has strategically placed catapults. Not sure that they are the originals or just some fake replicas, but they were clearly a part of the defense of the place nearly 1,000 years ago.
Other than the vineyards the people here clearly rely on tourism but I still can’t get a coffee with a muffin or croissant, and the “authentic” restaurant, only one open, is a pizza job. And thought people visited other countries/cultures for that experience.
A collection of artisan and tourist shops have made it here into the typically narrow streets though again at this time of the year most are closed.
At this altitude high in the Midi Pyrenees the autumn colours are starting to display. A few of the forest trees are turning red and gold. Will be stunning in a week or two. The vines too are changing, some with spectacular effect.
My attempt at an abstract of the colours in some of the vineyards now.
The endless hot sunny days the marked the first 6 or 7 weeks of our time in the Med have turned to pretty cool days and more rain than sun. The whole area was just so dry previously. This will get those vines producing for next year, though I did hear a report suggesting the harvest is down for the current year.
We’ve seen a lot, visited some amazing places and enjoyed a little of Spanish and French life. Although this wasn’t a road trip, we’ve driven over 6,000k’s in the two countries and fired off over 7,000 images between us. We have some work to do when we get back. we head to Toulouse and then to San Fran for a couple of nights each en-route. See you all soon, au revoir.
There has to be an exception.
Mentioned last time how friendly and helpful French people have been. There has to be an exception. The other day walking through village yearning for a coffee, came across this cafe, door open, darkness inside (but that’s not unusual we are finding) walked in as you do. I’m about halfway into the joint when “monsieur, monsieur, monsieur” can be heard loudly from the doorway we had just walked through. Turn around and there’s this woman who had been sitting at a table outside smoking as they do, and talking loudly on the phone, as they do, like one of those undesirable customers every cafe owner must get.My rapid retreat is followed by some un-understandable volley of rapid fire french. At this stage I realise she is the owner. “Deux cafe au lait sil vous plait” I ask, “OK”, then feeling like a bite, a croissant or similar, as you do, I ask in broken French, “and something to eat”. “OK”.
Thinking we are heading in again, I stride purposefully forward, my eyes adjusting to the darkness seeking the counter to see if there is anything to select from. Voila! I see a cabinet, like those drink cabinets they point too, with a get your own sweep of the arm, if you ask for a cold drink, move towards it, open it and start to look inside. Just at that moment my peace is shattered. Blaring from near the door comes “MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR”(thought that had happened a moment ago). But this time the smoking, loud talking outside proprietor is now striding towards me yelling “THIS IS NOT A SELF-SERVICE (REPEAT)”in broken English. Now we are even, but I’m thinking hey we are not really welcome here, so I wave Anne out of the place and follow to the much more dulcet tones of she with the loud voice’s “au revoir”.
We got what we wanted from a much nicer man in a much nicer place just a couple of doors along.
Cafes, as I’m sure you know, though different from ours in terms of offerings and coffee quality are an important part of daily life where dogs often outnumber patrons.
No we haven’t been to a bullfight.
But just as bullfighting in Spain is on the decline, we find a couple of rings in the area around us in France. Drove to a smallish village the other day and there near the entrance was a newish, small ring complete with toreador with horns on head statue.
Driving the vineyard lined narrow country roads is always an enjoyable experience for me. often vines give way to rough edges frequently with wild pomegranate, apples and escapee grape vines. The shooting season’s in full swing. Might have mentioned that before. Wandering the vineyards its amazing what you come across. And all that gunfire must have sparked the desire for a duck dinner. Well at least duck skewers on our bbq,
Many of the village entrance roads, and canal edges, are lined with plane trees. It is said Napoleon started this (somewhere I read the Romans did, so who knows) but now some are being removed as they have been responsible for car accident deaths.
Another constant here is the need for continual navigating around (well not always around as some just are not that shape), roundabouts that seem to have infested the country. The only things that contest these for popularity is churches. Even in our little town there are 2 I have found, usually locked only operating once of twice a month. Actually I think the roundabouts work quite well. some are large sods (I’ve driven around a number more than once trying to find the right exit. Others, small or barely existent. The need for so many, sometimes only metres apart, must come from the number of entry points each town has. Usually about six. On one occasion we “circumnavigate” a more triangular “roundabout”, and just when I think I’m through there’s a pedestrian crossing, an old couple waiting to cross, I wonder whereto and stop for them. They scurry across to some large wrought iron gates in the middle, open them and head into what is clearly their home. So a home in the middle of a roundabout, but that’s not all, as we leave the apex of the roundabout (?) I notice some impressive headstones. I guess the family burial plot, who knows, but in this triangular roundabout.
Round another corner, and another village. This one Poilhes has Canal du Midi running through it. A couple of significantly different boats pass on a bend in the canal.
Narbonne is a nice city for a day or two. Main attractions are its museums and cathedral, also the Canal de la Robine runs through it. Below the canal at night, part of the Cathedral of Saint Just, a recovered 1,000+ year old mosaic and a statue of someone I’m sure I know but just can’t recall for now.
By now the weather is turning colder and a strong wind is kinda making the day difficult.
Spent a night at a seaside holiday place La Port Nouvelle, lovely ocean beach, but not much else that’s memorable, except our hotel that is. The last place open I think, the room quite nicely done up with concealed blue lighting (ugh). The entrance was tiny, struggled to get our one bag though and even bigger struggle to get it in the lift, all so that when we reached our floor we could be assailed by darkness and an almighty stench. You know the one that you face when out of sheer desperation you are forced to enter a public toilet the local council has taken off its regular cleaning list. Shan’t be returning there. However did get some nice sunrise shots next morning.
We head to the area generally referred to as Aude Nature hoping to see and photograph some bird-life. Still seems scarce around the prime spots we were referred to, nothing to shoot, so give up on the west side of this great estuary and wetland area and head for the other side and the town made famous by the Newman’s. Not the Paul Newman’s, the Eric and Carol Newman’s.
On approaching Gruissan we come across another canal with a couple of old boat restorations going on. Here’s one of them.
Round the corner I spot some flamingos flying, not close enough, then go stalking storks.
Pretty much everything else seems blown away by the wind.
The wind we learn is the tramontane and can blow at up to 120k’s. It originates from the same central area as the better known mistral winds.
The town of Gruissan is like many here divided into new and old towns. The new is essentially built around 3 massive marinas. These are marina’s spectacular, ones that NZ boaties would just lust over. A really classy modern town that attracts 120,000 in the peak season. That’s over now and most shops and restaurants are closed. Enough are open though for us to get all the meals we need. The old city has the remains of a chateau on the hill, built about 1100 and a fairly typical small town, narrow streets, tight corners and streets littered with cafe tables and chairs to be navigated around. Oh of course a couple of great churches too. Not planning to, but late in the day we decide it’s worth staying longer and book into the 1st B & B (Chambres de Hotes) we come across. What a find. Probably the best accommodation on this trip, beautifully renovated and built from rock pilfered from the the chateau (you can what remains of the chateau below). All these places have so many stories. The proprietor of our B & B answers a lot of questions over breakfast and we learn a bit (I’m sure there’s a ton more) from him
Both the estuary (Etang de Thau) and the ocean are photogenic.
As is the Il’e Saint Martin salt works which date back to Roman times and as you can see still producing the stuff by the mountain-load.
Mentioned our arrival in Corneilhan last time. It is really rural out here. Our little village, 10 minutes walk away is supposed to have about 1,500 inhabitants. your wouldn’t know it to visit.
Swear there are as many tractor movements through the town and cars, one bar no cafe we’ve found yet, a couple of greengrocers that open peculiar hours and days, a woman’s hairdresser, and a butcher closed until end of Sept and a patisserie open 4 mornings a week. The coffees at the bar are wildly different each day. Anne keeps saying why have another? I keep thinking one day they’ll get it right and I’ll be able to say “voila”. Corneilhan is a typical ancient European village with the compressed terracotta roof pattern when you see from above and two monumental churches that are hardly ever used. A walk in any direction other than the road to town takes you into an endless vista of vineyards.
But there are lots of really quaint villages around.
We are essentially well-off the tourist trail here,
though it is not more than about 20 minutes to find the coast or other more “touristy” villages. With exception of coastal places like Sete and Beziers, Montpelier the rest I’ve never heard of and suspect most bar a few immigrant poms wouldn’t have either. Yep, they seem to flock here too as we encountered in our area of Spain.
The Canal Du Midi flows nearby. Looking forward to walking some of its banks and coffee-ing in many of the cafe’s I’ve seen pictured along its sides. We dropped into Villeneuve Les Beziers for a wander around the little village and along the canal alongside for an afternoon. Check the interesting restaurant name..
Beziers, monument through huge wrought iron gates, looking down on city from atop Cathédrale St-Nazaire (the city’s big one in terms of churches ) and mains street where the coffee is great
And the French people, well at least the ones we’ve met, those who have opened conversation with us have been fabulously friendly, helpful etc, certainly they have let the stereotype of aloofness and arrogance that we all hear about down. They have been great. Only negative is some are just so bloody impatient when driving. Guess they’re the young ones!!
As you know, once the All Blacks are mentioned you can’t stop them. Interestingly though, we seem to get a positive reaction to our accents, well perhaps we just don’t notice the others. Had a couple who it turns out are from Belgium and have a holiday place in the area sitting next to us over lunch in Beziers the other day. They really got into telling us about all the spots we should go to, then morning tea alongside the Canal Du Midi a guy who didn’t give a stuff about the All Blacks became passionate in telling us about a nature reserve and lake not too far away so we will be busy for the rest of our stay, just based on these experiences. Actually, saw this bar in Millau, went for a drink, clearly the French didn’t win the world cup, it was closed, shut, ferme, non ouvert, couldn’t get a beer there.
Weather has turned cooler in last week. Temps now start down at about 12 – 13 and rise to 24 -26. Quite pleasant especially since our car here has only a fan and windows for aircon!
Been a busy week this one, Sete, Beziers, Pezanas, Villeneuve Les Beziers, St Chinians, Murviel Les Beziers, Capestrang, Colombiers, Valra Plage, Serignan, Cap D’Agde, and we are not finished yet. And markets, there’s at least one a day round here, and our GPS automatically finds them somehow! Wonder who sets that thing every time we get in the car?
Most interesting part of markets (for me anyway) is the food and produce stands.
Look at this mouthwatering display.
We spend a night in Montpellier after dropping our good friend Andrea of at the airport. Nights on the Place de le Comedie pedestrian area are full of light and people.This is apparently the largest city pedestrian area in the world. The opera house is lit in blue at one end beyond the statue.
We stay in the historic district for our time here. The Saint Clement Aquaduct is proably one of the most recognised of city features. We see it as sun falls.
Another dimly lit lane from my night stroll around. As always old cities seem more interesting after dark
A number of small villages entertain us as we head (much to Anne’s consternation and subsequent delight!) to see the Millau Bridge. St. Guilhem le Desert is a beaux city (term used I believe to denote Frances most beautiful towns and cities) and a National Site.
Within the town is Abbey Gellone.
What a checkered history this Abbey has, even more than most religious buildings in Europe as far as I can see anyway. It’s worth reading about.
Late afternoon at Millau Bridge doesn’t show it off to it’s gleaming white best, but it is impressive to say the least, structure of 2.5 k’s in length with its tallest pier being higher than the Eiffel Tower has proven worth the effort to get to. They claim it took 3 years to build at a cost of 320 million (yep million) euros.We stay over-night, but the next day is overcast and showery so photos reflect this too. Bugger.
And back to the beginning – life in rural France; well, bird shooting season opened here yesterday. We now wake to the banging of shotguns. Some seem to be just outside our window. Give you a fright when they are real close. Had to rush to Carrefour for some additional undies….
When we look out the window there’s all these bright orange caps walking in the fields and vineyards. For starters I thought they must have been looking for he orange crested pheasant to …whatever with. Then I saw a gun over the shoulder so I guess they feel they won’t shoot one and other if the orange cap works!!
They are at it again in the evening, so if this becomes our last missive you’ll know we must look like birds on a wire.
This is what men should do. Each day, up to the village corner for a get-together and tell a few lies. Usually there’s some vin rouge and/or espresso too. The village a few k’s away from ours.
Au revoir from Corneilhan