Niue in May


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Please click links to see more images from this real surprise in the Pacific.

Niue –nowhere like it, or so they say. 

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Arrived following characteristic delays on Southern Motorway and of course AirNZ.

Blustery as all hell, 35 – 45 knot winds, huge seas, and 28 degrees.



Nice resort, a wine, dinner and good sleep set us up for what is in effect day 1.

Collected hire car –  rattletrap of Nissan Cube. More rattles in this thing than grandkids have. Spent day dodging potholes, and taking walks down to rocky coves with wonderful rock pools all fairly teeming (slight overstatement, but compared to what we are used to!) little fish, myriad of colours and styles. Had a wee snorkel in one of the larger pools, very pleasant. Heaps of coral types growing,  all colours and shapes and styles (or is species).




The whole place though is somewhat of a grave site. Typically Pacific Island, everywhere you turn there are the graves of those who have gone before, be they people, old houses or dead cars, they scatter the landscape.

The monthly ship from NZ  arrived today to restock the necessities of life here. It’s a monthly event, and quite an exercise as the ship is tied off to the wharf about 300 metres Niue-30-3out and motors kept running to hold her stern on while the unloading of containers on to a barge occurs one at a time over the next couple of days. By then the supermarket, the gas station and I hope the cafes will be restocked (not that we have had any trouble getting a coffee, but was getting worried).

I say not that getting a coffee…… actually the coffee is quite good, but you’d better not be in a hurry. Average wait time would be 30 minutes, and (through beautiful bush usually) continually rising too. To get to the coral ledges and tidal pools we often have to take a bush walk or sea track and then a swag of steps to the bottom.

Seems like we descend and rise the 70 metres every time we head to the rock pools.

We’re heading out today to start with a school assembly. An interesting experience. About 100 kids singing, praying and receiving awards, all in two languages.


Then off to some more of the scenic spots navigating our way through the strategically located potholes.


It’s fun swerving our way down the road, slowing and waving when cars come the other way. Not sure Anne feels it as much fun. Especially when I hit one, it sends a shuddering reminder that I’m alive to my spine. According to Israeli owner of the Japanese restaurant they are waiting for the Chinese to return to repair them. Better hurry because I’ll swear some of them are big enough to be home to marine life now! The Japanese food was worth the effort Graeme, some of the best we’ve had. Thanks for that recommendation.

The other side of the island (east) is very different. Rugged and rough.


Met a woman collecting what turned out to be large sea-snails for lunch after church on Sunday. Told me it was good on this side today, can’t always do what she was doing. Looked pretty rough to us.

As well as the rock pools and coral at end of the walks, arches, chasms and caves add to the beauty spectacularly.




Not much in way of wildlife. Haven’t seen a seagull of any variety. Quite amazing, but the place is chocka with cats and the ever-present chooks, or jungle fowl as they know them.Niue-70

Not sure but am seriously wondering whether the cats are to blame for the dearth of bird-life.

If Gareth (cat-man) Morgan really needs a mission perhaps he should check Niue out.

I think life is pretty good here, simple, seemingly worry-free and warm. Met the Secretary for Government on the plane on way up. He says, that with the taro, a few veges (hydroponically grown), coconut and fish it’s a breeze.

The working week here is 4 days. Guess that works because 35% of the people work for the Government so we are told.

Lunch at another of Graeme N’s recommendations. The Washaway Bar. A rustic fun joint only open on Sunday afternoon, after all the church services are over. Again, a great experience.

Final sightseeing journey was to the Talava Arches. Worth the 30 min walk through bush and over a rugged coral path that requires some concentration to avoid falls, then through some narrow limestone caves to finally spot the arch across a bay. This is one of the more recognised scenic destinations on the island.


Potholes, strategically located, chooks, ,amazing variety coral, chasms & caves, that’s about it.

it all here and tomorrow the cocks crow for the last time for us.


Gaudi’s Barcelona


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Gaudi’s architecture is somewhat bizarre, incredibly interesting,  stunningly creative and innovative and a major drawcard to Barcelona. Recently uploaded selection at . Trust you’ll enjoy.


Things, they are a changing…as we get towards the end of our time here


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final missive;

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.

London across Thames from Impero offices on wet evening.

London across Thames from Impero offices on wet London evening.

UK's largest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal OrbitLondon Olympic Park

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.



La Cite Medievale, Carcassonne, France

La Cite Medievale, Carcassonne, France.


We  fill the bulk of our day here then decide to head back for dinner and some night shots.



La Cite Medievale, Carcassonne, France

La Cite Medievale, Carcassonne, France night scenes.


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.

minerve-1-of-1Other than the vineyards the people here clearly rely on tourism but I still can’t get a coffee with a muffin or croissant, and tminerve1-1-of-1he “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.Minerve, France

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.





We are getting around…as you will have seen


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Missive 6.

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.

Boujan Sur Libron, Languedoc France

Boujan Sur Libron, woman outdside Cafe D La Paix sits reading newspaper, Languedoc France

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.

Boujan Sur Libron bullring France.

Boujan Sur Libron bullring France.



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,


lieuran-les-beziers-languedoc-france-39-of-56Many 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 thingruissan-france-14-of-133k, 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.gruissan-france-19-of-133

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.

gruissan-france-129-of-133Pretty 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.

Gruissan ocean beachwp-1476251798288.jpg

Gruissan, Framce, Etang de Gruissan nets and small fishernens bo

Gruissan, France, Etang de Gruissan nets and small fishermens boats silhouetted on beach as sun sets.

Gruissan, Framce, Etang de Gruissan nets and small fishernens bo

Gruissan, France, Etang de Gruissan nets and small fishermens boats on beach

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.


Country living in rural France, it is a provincial life around here


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Missive 5;

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 acorneilhanfrance-8-of-12re 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 millau-france-14-of-53these 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.colombiers-france-10-of-51

Look at this mouthwatering display.montellier-france-62-of-80



University of Montpellier, Faculty of Medicine, the worlds oldes

University of Montpellier, Faculty of Medicine, the worlds oldest medical school still in operation.

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.

montpellier-viaduc-1-of-1 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.

st-guilheme-le-desert-france-133-of-137Within 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.

Abbey of Gellone, Saint Guilhem Le Desert, France

Abbey of Gellone, Saint Guilhem Le Desert, France

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 omillau-france-37-of-49ver-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.murviel-les-beziers-the-men-of-1-of-1

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

Adios to the Costa Blanca its been great and Bonjour to Corneilhan in Languedoc-Roussillon region of France


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Missive 4;

So we leave the Coll De Rates in Parcent leaving a spectacular sunrise. Guess someone organised that farewell for us. Very nice thanks.

Headed by train for Barcelona. Our hotel is at the Paca de Catalunya end of La Ramba.



one of the fountains in Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona.

A short “orientation walk before dark around the plaza, then turn right from hotel door and down the tourist magnet of  La Ramba. A seething mass of tourists, restaurant touts, vendors (legal and not so) periodically divided by police vehicles weaving through the hordes on the plaza you should see the fake brands peddlers lift their goods and move to where the cops have just come from. Its a game. They drop their sheet like bags with strings from each corner for quick regather when the law arrives. They sell what they can in few short minutes then are usually spooked off, by the next wave of cops, to the spot they left about 5 minutes earlier.

la-rambla-peddlers-2-of-2              la-rambla-peddlers-1-of-2


Night on La Rambla

Did I mention the parking ticket? Long story, sorry but has to be told, it really does spell Spain.

Been to Valencia, picked up the ills, heading back to Parcent, diverted to small town of Gandia for a break. Found a candidate carpark, checked there were no “prohibido aparcar” signs and that other vehicles were also parked in same area. Returned in due course to find a pink slip under rear wiper blade just below the rental car sticker. Rechecked all previous assumptions, no reason to believe we couldn’t park there especially as there was a white lined parking space. Me thinks this is a case of quota achievement and a cop who can’t believe his luck, a tourist & rental car prospect!

The ticket is helpfully in 2 languages – Spanish & Catalans. Helpful, like hell.

Decide to keep moving and get a translation in due course. Turns out there’s a 50% reduction on the 100 euro fine if [aid within 20 days. There’s a list of banks for payment, but I can’t see any direction to appeal. So, next day off to local bank, after 5 minutos on computer the teller advised, not his bank. So traveling on, next bigger city, Valencia must be able to pay here, into one of named banks, same outcome. So the days tick by, eventually try another back in another town. 10  minutos on computer and all’s looking good, takes my 50 e’s, wont’t take credit card though I thought worth a try. What a relief I hand over a hard eared 50 E note and am asked for my numero de identidad de extranjero (NIE). Whaaaaat!

Try to explain, but no, must have before she can accept my payment. Got the car number, the ticket number, my license number, God knows every number under the sun but I don’t have an NIE. Suggests I apply for a temporary one. Really, where? Gandia. By now things are looking like I’ll be watching my back as I leave Spain. But in charges a white knight in the form of Anne who’s been silently standing and observing. Using a tone and lparkind-ticket-duly-receipt-stamped-by-bank-1-of-1ook normally only reserved for me she eyeballs this poor teller and says”can’t- you -phone -someone- and -sort -it -out?” The teller, as I always do, shudders with fear, relents and picks up the phone. 10 minutos later she takes the money and gives a receipt. Hola! Gracias! Lets get out of here! The fact we shouldn’t have even had the damned fine will be a fight for another day. Can see myself winning that one too – not -especially as it turns out I need to argue my case at the Gandia Adjuntament.

The ticket duly receipt stamped by bank, thanks to Anne’s demand.

Back to Barcelona – La Rambla is not for me. Head to the side streets as soon as practical. The deeper we go the lighter the tourists, the darker the streets, the more “Spanish” the feel and the better the restaurants. These streets we’ll frequent mostly for our nights here, eating, observing and photographing, not really for enough time. Really great places for the experiences and gritty scenes.

We spend a day and half on those tourist bus things, getting an overview, then having hit some of the key points, museums, Gaudi buildings, Sagrada Familia etc we start walking.


Sagrada Familia still under construct some 130 + years on, 3 cranes working on the top and some detail shots from the mighty minor basilica.



What a city. I get a real buzz doing this. Seeing and clicking from ground level the places and things that go on in a city. Barcelona sure didn’t let me down on this count. We encounter the gothic area, a swag more churches, bascilica’s, historic buildings and some great (and not so) cafes and street scenes.

Some more from Gaudi;


One of the highlights has to be the visit to Palau de la Musica Catalonia, a UNESCO Heritage site, building that is centre for the musical arts in the city. Built in modernist style commencing 1905 this turned out to be a must see.

Architectural detail is of course everywhere;


Next day on train to Beziers, France en-route to our new home/base for 6 weeks in Corneilhan. A small village of about 1500 people, not, I don’t think, on the tourist loop at all but that’s good. Handy to many very scenic areas and Mediterranean beaches so we have a lot to look forward to.

Our new home is comfortable enough, certainly wouldn’t pass Anne’s design school test but it does have some interesting features. Like 1st thing she does (or was it 2nd?) on arrival is head to wash her hands. Well these old pipes want you to know they are in use and erupt with a booming clattering wailing sound that is less harmonious, more frightening and every bit as loud as dad’s early morning bathroom call, if you know what I mean! I’m sure that won’t be the only strange encounter we experience, rustic goes some way to describe it.

there’s been some interest in the car left by our host. It’s a little ripper. I call it the blue streak  (successor to the Blue Bird), due to; 1. its colour, 2. its mobility. Malcolm Campbell would have been proud of it!! Though yesterday, got pulled over by the cops down in Sete. Turns out the French equivalent of our WOF is required 2 yearly. Our one hadn’t been renewed since 2009!

She rattles along, a real hot little number, no aircon, each change of gear (5) I spend a moment or two finding the location, they seem to shift around in the gear box, cornering is a delight, no power steering & my shoulders ache, pretty secure though the front passenger door is permanently locked, although a swift and deliberate knock near the keyhole did help open it once, I said secure didn’t I, when getting out all doors have to be individually locked, all 5 of ’em, and then of course the walk around is required to unlock them. Citroen hadn’t heard of central locking when this little beauty was built about 25 years ago. oh, like the the Blue Bird speed isn’t an issue, no speedometer.

It’s really good though. You should see the vineyards around here. You probably have, so you’ll know what I mean.They are endless. France may run out of water one day, but never wine.

Au revoir




This is Spain after all…..


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Rural Spain, in the Vall De Pop, an orange orchard just out of Pedreguer, Alicante.

Missive 3;

Travel broadens the mind, or so they say. It seems it also frustrates one with the differences you need to embrace while in foreign countries.

Time seems irrelevant to the Spanish.

How often the restaurant bill takes up 20 minuto to arrive, shops are always closed when you need them, restaurant owners just shut the doors and go on holiday, en-mass, and so it goes. We are though in the country that invented siestas and liberally use “manana” to brush off urgency. This is Spain. There is something good about it all though, especially the siesta bit.

Then there’s the traffic stop lights that hold you up at ped crossings for several minutes while NO pedestrians can be seen within miles. Haven’t got to the demand driven processes we take for granted yet.



Almond grove just out of Parcent. Pity we are not here in spring. These trees are just covered with intense pink blossom.



Its been all action round here over last couple of days. Bush wildfires have broken out in at least 2 places on other side of hills around us. Helicopters ferrying water buckets are a constant over our villa. Today water trucks have been heading over the Coll De Rates to a fire  we are told is near Tarbena. A place we have visited a couple of times.


Smoke in the sky. Yesterday evening we became enveloped in smoke. Mostly cleared today but the firefighting goes on adding to our Spanish experiences.


A couple of nights in Alicante and days on the streets viewing their tremendous harbour/marina and home to Volvo Round the World Museum was well worth the visit.

As is Castell of Santa Barbara, quite an imposing structure atop high point in the city, guarded below by the steel archer sculpture. Architecture along the Explanada offers some interesting photo opportunities as these buildings illuminated by sun-flare. The Explanada itself is comprised 6.6mil mosaic tiles, a very popular place during the day, market stalls, palm trees for a bit of shade and the restaurants, at night it really comes to life with entertainers and people en-mass just enjoying themselves. The city bull ring is in the mid of the view of city from Santa Barbara Castell and then there’s the “even in Spain”(Restaurante China) shot from an Alicante street, and marina.



Russian Orthodox Church huge mosaic Altea on Costa Blanco An amazing structure, log cabin style Russian Orthodox Church just out of Altea, has this 15+ metre high mosaic. More impressive in reality, than on my phone!

Benidorm apartments

Probably a place to avoid, but we wanted to see for ourselves – Benidorm.

Known for having more Poms per meter than the UK the place is set up for mass tourism. The beach though really is a beaut. Long, white sand, calm turquoise water. Across the promenade the road is lined with the bars and cafes loved by the tourists that frequent these places. Yuk, really. And swags of apartment blocks like these fill the landscape for  visitors.


And some of the sights – like the 80+ yr old’s sunburned to colour of overcooked steak, wearing bikini barely worth putting on and riding the footpath in mobility scooters. I kid you not, there’s a swarm of them. Bill G, just what you’ve been looking for!!

Then there what I initially thought was a moving desert. Massive, broad, all moving parts seemed to be headed in different directions, tell you what, at a glance you’d swear it was naked, then I did spot a tiny excuse for a bikini. Felt real sorry for that bikini. Most hidden within the moving mass.

In couple of days we leave our home in this some dry yet fertile area known as Vall de Pop headed for a few days in Barcelona and then Corneilhan near Beziers in south west France.

The Vall de Pop grows citrus, olives, almonds and grapes much on the valley/hill sides supported by dry stone retaining walls some dating back to the Romans, 2,000 years.

Leaves are falling from the almond trees, grapes (very nice they are too, but don’t ask how I know) are about to be picked for wine and sultanas.

Stuff all wildlife, though we will be leaving some of these little fellas that inNot much wildlife here, shame these little critters are about all left.habit the villa and grounds.

And its amazing what you see on the roads! Actually the significant roads are fantastic.

Like the one that leaves Parcent in the valley and heads over the Coll De rates mountains. Fantastic, winding and reaches about 700 metres above sl. Used mainly by cyclists and motorcyclists. This area is a paradise for these dudes as they move in swarms through the winding mountain roads. The highways we’d die for. Guess Spain can thank the EU for that.

Trying to hide something! Anyone recognise this guy?villajoyosa-calp-56-of-90

From our “paradise between the mountains” (and beyond)


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Parcent in distance, from top Coll De Rates some 645 metres up


as Gabriel Miro famous Spanish author of late 19th early 20th century called Parcent.

And then there’s the narrow village streets, such fun to drive around, the historic architecture, and churches, the way many places have more than one way to spell their names, the Bones Festes, and the funny cappuccinos. Guess this is Spain.


Gas bottle delivery truck negotiating the narrow streets and even m20160818_101136[1]ore difficult corners doing a multi-point turn.








A trip to the coast, the Costa Blanca and some of the picturesque villages and resorts makes for a colourful outing.


Your are there – 0k’s to Costa Blanca sign in Calp

First stop about 40 mins away, Calp,  reasonable sized town and home to this sign and the largest rock in the Mediterranean on the edge of the town, behind a cool marina.

Great restaurants waterfront activities, beaches and very touristy things, but well worth visit.


Through boat club entrance to marina decking.




From Calp one can head up or down the coast taking in the amazing Mediterranean views, resort towns and tourist hotpots.

Altea, picturesque old buildings in its back streets. the waterfront comprises a  very touristy promenade lined on one side with bars and restaurants and the other with the hordes covered sunbathing wp-1472311947628.jpgvisitors.



Vilajoiosa, famous for its brightly painted houses is an historic fishing village. Lovely spot, and well worth the drive to visit. We misjudged the sun and the faces of waterfront buildings were all in shade. Drat, but we’ll return.

Closer to home are the plethora pueblos or villages each with it’s own distinctive feel and charm. Only 5 minutes down the road is Alcalali. These are a few of the street and building scene here. We had a coffee in the little square, bought a few supplies from local mini- supermercado and followed the postie around as he pushed his pike up and down the hilly streets delivering letters and chatting with locals. we had to do that as Anne wanted to post some cards and while he was busy doing this his PO was closed.

Went out to another town for dinner. Orba, about 10 minute away. Again, sat in square while our orders were delivered along with many other diners. What an atmosphere. Balmy evening in the Plaza de Espana surrounded by the old church and buildings like these taken from our seat, till about 10.30 when we headed home.wp-1472313610096.jpg

Terraces in Vall de Tarbena

Incredible terraced valley between two ranges, another interesting town or two, and the castle on a rock.

The other side of the Coll de Rates mountains takes us through the windiest road I’ve ever driven as we descend into the Vall de Tarbena then back up the other side. Both sides are terraced extensively as this photo tries to show.An amazing drive.

When we get to Tarbena and its square with a couple of cafes and the ever present church its time for a coffee and dry toasted baguette with olive oil. That’s morning tea in the amazing cafe Casa Pinet cafe, museum like, totally packed with paraphernalia and picture from civil war era.





Any mode of transport works here. The John Deere parked in Tarbena square outside the church of Santa Barbara I’m guessing, while a local farmers drops into one of the adjacent cafes.




Guadalest bell tower built on a rock, alongside a small town comprising a wonderful old home, now a museum that was the original family’s here. Now a tourist magnet with a number of funny little “mGuadalest castle on rock (1 of 1)useums” and a ton of souvenir shops selling tons of Chinese tack. Great to visit for its history.









Markets were the order of the day, Saturday last. First there was the massive Xalo market then only a few metres down the road, the Lliber night markets.


A couple returning from Lliber night markets

Dancing in the streets;

In Alcalali (just 5 mins from us) we stumbled into their Bones Festes (don’t ask what that means, except they all seem to have one hell of a time). We had caught the last night of the event in Parcent the first night here when watermelon seemed to be the theme for some unexplained reason.

Then a day and uncomfortable night in Valencia. After checking into our hotel found the aircon didn’t work. Well, that’s an understatement, it pumped luke warm air into an already 30 c + environment. I hear you saying, so what, get it fixed. tried that, no joy. Went out hoping all would be restored by our return. Uh uh, no. They still couldn’t fix it. Thier recommendation – open you window. Did that, then could’t sleep too well, from the clatter and traffic from below.Add to that the rock hard bed – what a night, and now they want me to do a trip advisor recommendation! The joys of travel.20160902_065654.jpg

Our short stay in the city was otherwise very enjoyable with the Hills and Jordans.

The Valencia Cathedral entrance beyond the long shadows of the gate.




On our return to Vila Joyosa we made it on to the city port. Actually only a fishermans port but very interesting. Fishermen drying and mending their nets and some of the little boats they venture out in raise questions not just of safety, but also economics. How an they make a living from these wee tubs?

And this red one wasn’t the smallest or the least seaworthy.

After a few very enjoyable day we returned the Hills to Valencia to continue their cruising.

A visit to the arts and science district is a must. Never got inside any of the spectacular buildings, too busy photographing the stunning white architectural exteriors. After about 3 hours we still missed as much. Be sure if you are in Valencia, allow plenty of time for this visit.


Brilliant white cable stay Assut De L’or Bridge with top of science museum bottom of frame.


Principe Felipe Science Museum architectural details reflected in adjacent pond in the “City of Arts and Sciences”


Hienz Mack”s stunning gold installation in City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia with Hemisferic Imax/3d and performing arts theatres


From under the Hemisferic theatre, Science museum, Assut de L’or rising bridge stays and Agora event space building (blue) beyond water feature.





Then there’s the story that seems to typify the Spanish. Nothing happens here quickly. Planning something, allow double the time needed (AT LEAST) anywhere else. Picked up a parking ticket for parking in a white lined parking space. That is the lines seemed to us to mark the area within which parking was allowable. Funny, 100 euro fine on back windscreen on our return. No right to argue, no place to go and fight so left with only option – to pay up. Where do you do that? at a bank, where else? First bank, teller fiddles on his computer for 5 minutes then tells us wrong bank, points out name of correct one. Eventually find one of those some number of cities away, same story, can’t do it here either. So I still have the ticket, unpaid because after some searching time walking, driving on the lookout, the one we are now told can do it seems to not exist. Have to keep looking I guess. There’s a 50% discount if paid before 20 days. Espana !!!!

Trust all is well wherever you are, adios.

On the road again…


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Not quite on the road so much off on another “expedition” and more for my library of photographic images plus these smartphone versions.

Buenos diaz, we’ve arrived at our home for month. It’s hot mid 20’s – 30’s c.

Flying low over Manises, Valencia we could clearly see the fruit fields below.

Mainly citrus. This I thought would be the the economic mainstay of the region. Once out of the airport we got our car and headed toward Parcent to meet Garry who is to take us to our digs.We drive, then off the highway, through orchards and olive groves.

The landscape here is hilly, most villages which are everywhere you look, often walking distance apart or only a couple of minutes drive set on hillsides or in the valleys there must be 30 or so of them from the vantage point of our home. Much dryer here. The orchards and groves don’t look as lush as the ones seen from the plane. After two nights in local restaurants I now know the main industries are poms and fruit/olive growing. The only Spanish voices heard in the establishments (one is even called Victoria) was from wait staff.

Our home is lovely, built way up a hill in what we know as Spanish style. Seems as villages grew and the poms arrived they have spread themselves through the hills around the traditional villages.

From NZ  a stopover at Houston TX. An interesting city, our mistake was to stay out of it. The Galleria area would be great if the only thing you wanted to do was shop. Massive shopping center with all imaginable chain and department stores imaginable, but a good 20 mins from the action. That being the architecture, parks, walks etc on the Downtown or the Museum district with it scores of museums, galleries, the large Hermann Park.

Then if you camp down here you are that 20 mins closer to things like the Nasa Space Center, Galveston Island etc. If you ever want a reference for a Houston or NASA guide let me know. Elizabeth was excellent

With a couple of hours to spare before leaving, nothing to do around hotel hired a cab and headed for museum district. Oh well next time as we only have 1.something days this time.


Adam, our very cheery Ethiopian driver really tried to be helpful, unfortunately most closed for Sunday morning but he did make a suggestion we see the Menil gallery (shot from the gallery hallway) . So we humored him. Glad we did. This is worth the visit. Don’t miss it if you have any interest in art. Would also commend Adam for a driver, got his number too if you ever want it.





Flight from Houston to Frankfurt provided me with window seat, which I like, however row 69 and about 10 around them are all over a ginormous Airbus 380 wing. It’s like looking out at a white football field.


Great view of sky. Bugger! Nothing left to do but leap int the on-board entertainment system. seems good range but stuck on Chinese, can’t rest, ask hostess who responds “something like, oh well too bad not your day” and buggers off Disappointments come in 3’s don’t they? After the meal they bring around cognacs or Baileys, and what do they do?  Distracted by the constant asking for extras by the Indian guy sitting next to Anne they offer them to everyone all around and totally miss our seats.


Flying over Germany, France and Spain presented real interesting scenes below. Can’t get over  the orderliness of the Teutonic landscape below.


Home for next month, Villa La Paz.

Now in Parcent Spain. Just arrived last night, after a small sleep headed into the village for a feed and to look around after dark.



Happened on a celebration the Bones Festes. Groups dressed up and yahooing, having a great old time in the streets of the village.

Another day, back down thru’ Parcent to Orbas. another of what must be about 30 villages that can be seen from our place. What a great little place, typically traditional Mediterranean. First stop, bar for a cappuccino at cost of only E1.20 each. Walk the streets, pick up some cookie things and pizza from a beaut little bakery joint.

Bar and street in Orba. Men supping their reds and espresso’s around mid morning.

Food, yep always important, & wine & coffee too. Some interesting experiences thus far. First in Houston Galleria all the usual suspects but decided once again to try Nordstrom restaurant to avoid American standard burgers and chips. Now here’s a tip. Always excellent food and service at Nordstrom. Better by far than the US normal places you find around places like malls or even on the street.

In Parcent last night we shot out to a place we’ve driven by a few times since  being  here. Looked ok by the signage. When we arrived noticed 3 courses, wine & water €12 but closed so down the road to Victoria’s. English fare, similar deal but €18. Running out of options so gave it a go. Well you could feed a small village on what we sent back. Not a quality problem, food was good. Just that they provided starters , bread + spreads with olives and a soup before the meal even started. No way a normal person could all this food justice. Well may except for you Gerald!! Ended up leaving without even getting to try the dessert. Looking forward to finding more tapas style places.

Quiet day today, but eventually headed to a supermarket village about 7 minutes away in Xalo. Walked the old streets for a while then stop in to a botega. Sign outside says 3 tapa + wine E9. Looks good. After the usual Hola, its ?habla ingles? then the language tryst commences. Fun. Tapas not of the style we are used to, but perfecto anyway, sometimes. Meat slices, bread and spread, potato salad and quiche. More than  a meal. We keep learning.


Xalo form its outskirts.

Michael & Hannah and the two littlies arrive and provide more entertainment and reason to explore the narrow country roads and even narrower village streets. Again, great fun. A spot of sunbathing sounded like a good idea, so off the Grandella beach, about an hour away. For  E28 you hire (actually Michael did, thanks) 2 deck chair things and an umbrella from those all set out out in rows


La Granadella is a small cove set between spectacular rock cliffs all round. the beach is stones and packed more tightly than a can of sardines. Off course when people are so close interesting events occur. Like I’m sitting on my deckchair minding y own business and become aware of something quite large around my left ear, gingerly turn my head to come face to face with some guys quite ample arse in the bright orange beach shorts I’ve ever seen. For a moment I thought the sun had dropped in. Couldn’t help worrying that he had full control of his bio-systems. It was close, but then after he had adjusted his arrangements his misses stood and revolved her over-ample butt into that same space, just mm’s away I’ll swear, now my worry was about her sense of balance. It’s all very close around these beaches, if you know what I mean!




People and shade silhouettes on the crowded beach of La Granadella.



It’s hunting season here and we are living in the Coll de Rates mountains. There’s the almost constant sounds of barking dogs and gunfire. Pretty hard to spot any wildlife, tho’ I did see a small squirrel scurrying along the power lines. He’d better be careful, we’re told they shoot anything that moves around here. wp-1471958463934.jpg

From our abode in the mountains





Just love driving around these little villages with their narrow roads, never knowing whats around the next right angle corner. The street scenes are quite picturesque, the people though are something else. The odd old lady with greet you with and hola, or buenos dias, in the main, no smiles, acknowledgements or even the cursory wave when you give way in the car. Strange.Found a couple of open churches today. Very austere exteriors and extremely ornate interiors, similar to Italian I suppose.


Interior and main alter inside Parcent Catholic church. Was originally a Mosque, but when the Muslims got done the last time the Christians took as their own. 17th Century I believe.


Hope you’ve been picking up the other images posted on Instragram too. Instagram address; briansphotography

Adios amigos.