Day 11 – Monet’s Garden, Eiffel Tower and the Seine!

Today was incredibly difficult to get out of bed! I was so, so exhausted – and still dreaming about the Moulin Rouge. Wow, what a night! Anyway, today we were heading to Giverny but I was toying with the idea of just sleeping in. But then I thought, ‘Well I would still have to get up to tell David anyway – so may as well!’

After breakfast, I still have about 20 minutes to wait, so I popped down to my favorite cafe, Les Petites Canailles and enjoyed un cafe allonge.

This cafe was quite literally two doors down from the hotel we were staying in, Les Jardin du Marais and it served better coffee. As I was sitting there, David and some of the others going on the trip wandered past and came over for a chat too. Then it was onto to the bus and our guide Joelle was to accompany us.

While I was aware that Giverny was about an hour out of Paris, it actually took an hour and a half and was in the direction of Normandy. The trip provided a great opportunity for a cat nap once out of Paris but as we traveled out of town, I managed to get my first look at the Arc de Triomphe.

Arriving at Monet’s garden in Giverny, Joelle provided us with a great commentary of what we could expect to find, how to locate both the house and the water lilies as well as a bit of history about Claude Monet and his companion/wife Alice Hoschede. The house itself was quaint and beautiful.

Unlike the open plan style we seem to value in Australia, each room was self-contained and there were little hallways between each room.  I loved the bedroom his girlfriend-later-wife has. It was just beautiful.

The other room I loved was the yellow dining room. There is somethingI enjoy about color and the colour yellow fills me with a great sense of sunshine and life.

After the house I wandered through the gardens seeking out the lily pond. Eventually I found it and it was beautiful;  so much so that as the opportunity presented itself I found a bench seat to sit on and proceeded to spend some time doing some reiki. Even though there were people milling around, taking photos and chatting,  I still managed to find some solace and be present to where I was.

I have always loved the lilies in a pond paintings by Monet especially and probably particularly for the colours and the way they are worked; the blues and the purples then the greens, yellows and blues. Of course the garden seemed to be in full bloom and the colors were magnificent. I often wonder why we settle for neutral colours when it comes to painting our houses or rooms in our houses when colours – particularly bright colours bring so much life and energy. Bright colours often bring a smile of joy into my life.

After the gardens I wandered down the main street. I dicovered some beautiful paintings that were painted locally and I enjoyed a magnificent cafe gourmand as my lunch; where I tasted a Madeleine cake, financier cake and a canoli (spelling unsure) plus a couple others! Delicious!

On our way home, when I realised I had a couple of hours to spare, I asked Joelle to drop me off at a shopping area and she arranged for Gilbert to drop me off at Rue St Antoine. Wow did I have an amazng time shopping! Then when I couldn’t find the kind of bag shop I wanted I decided to head back to the Republique where I knew there was a suitable shop. Well I walked in with just a backpack and came away with an over-the-shoulder purse bag, a tote bag and a carry-on suitcase! I told you I went shopping! Then I grabbed a taxi and asked him to take me to my hotel. He wasn’t sure where to go so guess what? I gave him directions!

Of course that left me with next to no time to get ready for our visit to the Eiffel Tower and our final dinner! But manage it I did and grabbing my shoes, I raced out the door and met David in the foyer writing me a note to let me know where the dinner was – so he very kindly let me put my shoes on and we the jumped on the bus and it was off to the Eiffel Tower, followed by dinner at the Vaudeville at Bastille.

The Eiffel Tower did not disappoint and it was magnificent!  What I did not expect was the amazing photos my phone would take. Also I did not make this discovery until I was home looking at them on my compter…unbelievable!

 

 

The restaurant was beautiful and to be honest I expected the food to be amazing! Anyway as this was another one of those pre-ordered dinners once again I was expecting escargot!  Yes I was about to tempt fate once more – and yes fate was in for a rude shock! These ones came out in shells and was given special utensils to use. I will let the photos tell the story!

Needless to say, I will not be eating snails again – regardless of whether I am in France or not. Fortunately the lovely John swapped his French onion soup with me and then I had the beef bourgogne for mains. As I  said it ended up pleasant but not the best meal we had enjoyed. Mind you,  the company was great and we did enjoy our final catch up.

Our final activity was a cruise, at night, along the Seine. Wow! We got to see the Eiffel Tower at night – and not only was it lit up but we were privileged to enjoy a magnificent light show where she sparkled! When we first boarded the boat, that was but the first time we saw the Eiffel Tower glitter. The funnything was that Shirleen and I spotted David and so we madly waved! It was only later that we realised he was trying to photograph the Eiffel Tower light show!
The loveliest aspect about the cruise was that I was able to spend my final evening with my friend,  Shirleen.  We chatted, laughed, reminisced and try to capture our night through photography. Towards the final leg of our cruise, just as we passed the Eiffel Tower the light show lit up again and yes it was spectacular and beautiful.

 

As we climbed back on the bus with Gilbert, David decided to play “Gilbert’s playlist”! Well next thing you know we are all singing Sweet Caroline and Acky Bracky Heart. Oh my gosh what a hoot! Dancing Queen was next but by then we were climbing off the bus!

On my way back to the hotel I popped into see the man who wanted me to guess the ingredients of the shot I’d rnjoyed the previous night and I wanted to tell him I had tasted a Madeleine cake. Well he greeted me like a long lost friend and when I told him I was leaving kissed me again on both cheeks! No wonder I loved visiting Les Petites Canailles!

Sadly when I  went to bed I didn’t realise that would be the last time I saw Shirleen, Anne and John. But you never know what’s around the corner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 10 – Versailles, Paris + the Moulin Rouge

Today we left Orleans for Versailles. But first was breaky and I loved the beautiful setting used in the hotel. Everything seemed so beautifully and elegantly set out.

The day was was wet and overcast and it really didn’t look like it was going to stop. Even when we arrived at Versailles the rain contained steadily – so much so that Shirleen and I dropped into this gorgeous clothing shop to get her a cardigan. Even I managed to get something – and it matched my outfit! 

We then had coffee at this gorgeous cafe and just sat and talked. 

After a while we got up and started walking again. we then passed one of Shirleen’s favourite shops that just sells cosmetics a perfumes. It was great the way Shirleen and I worked in so well with each other like that! After that it was back to the palace where we positioned ourselves at a coffee shop overlooking the palace. 

After that it was dime for a closer peek at the palace and then back to the bus. No I didn’t go in but I just felt thatThere were too many people for the little time that we had. Next time!

After that it was onto Paris and the way we entered Paris this time meant that I got to see the kind of Paris I had been expecting – and it included the Eiffel Tower. 

After that still on me bus, we visited the Luxembourg gardens and “the little Palace” and our tour guide specialist explained as much as she could. It was very informative and a pleasant way to orient yourself around Paris.

Then it was back to the hotel and get ready for “The Moulin Rouge”.

I am actually writing this out of order because I have to tell you about my amazing night! Yes, the Moulin Rouge was ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’! 

You won’t believe it but our seats were iudhe front vow and yes I was in are front seat! It was a cabaret dinner that we enjoyed-three Courses, wine and champagne! 

Of course, no photos were allowed – so you can have a break from food photos this time! During dinner we were entertained by a couple of singers and a four piece band. People even got up and danced on the dance floor and I wondered how the dancers would manage the different levels. No, they didn’t have do, the stage extended right out to the table. Yes, that’s right, I couldn’t move and well, when they started kicking their legs – well let’s just say I had a good view! But that said, the costumes were exquisite, nothing was gratuitous and in actual fact the way the women were dressed seemed normal – not over the top or in your face! What was noticeable was that nothing wobbled – not for are men or the women. Their bodies were total muscle and they were fabulous! They danced & sang, there were acrobatics, and no matter how hard they worked, and how much precision was needed to perform some of these feats, they made it look beautiful. Mind you I did kind of freak somewhat when the stage moved back and a pool of massive water snakes rose to the surface! \ swear some of them looked like they wanted to get out- then as you would have it, this woman jumped in and swam/danced with them! Unbelievable – and within centimetres of me! Some of the kicks and splits were also completed within centimetres of me and to top it of when the little ponies came out, one of them nudged me on the head! So awesome! Can you tell I had a great time! As you can imagine l sang and clapped all night! We even had Wendy the talking dog from Britains got talent entertain us! Of course the two guys who did a kind of acrobatic dance to Gene Kelly’s ‘Singing in the rain’ was just awesome – the lifts where incredible! Then of course there was the guy and girl with the gigantic hula hoop! The strength , power and precision was inspiring to watch. Of course the sparkling bling, the swishy, flowing skirts, the colours and the feathers and lighting were a banquet of visual sensations.

Of course afterwards we were all on a high and very excited by the whole evening. Afterwards a guy came over and asked do take my photo – and yes, I can hear you all say, “Oh, oh, what happened here.” But no, he took a selfie with me and then left. And yes I still have my cards and money! The bus brought us back to the hotel and then John, Anne. I popped in for a drink at my favourite cafe but because it was after 1Opm, they wouldn’t serve me any coffee so the waiter made me a very special shot cocktail! There are four ingredients – two are Kahlua and Cointreau but the other two ingredients have to guess. If I come in tomorrow he will nadke me another shot and if I cannot guess then he will tell me! Guess what I am doing tomorrow afternoon before we go out!!!

I have had such a wonderful night! So much fun!

Anyway, we have one more busy day tomorrow before we fly out on Sunday morning and I really do need some sleep.

Day 9 – Orleans and Jeanne d’Arc

Today’s excursion to a township razed to the the ground by the Nazis was not one I was looking forward to. On the bus, if we were already a quiet mob, the mood turned extremely sombre as we watched a dvd about what happened that fateful day in Oradour-sur-Glane.

Yes I have been putting off writing about this day’s excursion. The impact of what happened in Oradour was heartbreaking and as many of you already know, for me, stories of Nazi Germany are akin to what we in Australia are currently doing to those we have imprisoned on Manus and Nauru Islands. Thinking about tha, I feel extremely angry and utterly helpless because we continue to leave these people to rot away in a living hell.

Oradour is a village that the Nazi German soldiers surrounded and called for everyone do congregate in the town square. Once there, the women and children were separated from the men. The men were taken to a shed under the guise that the German soldiers believed there to be a stash of weapons to be found. After a time, the men were circled, shot and then the shed was burnt to the ground. If I remember rightly, 3-5 were able to escape before the fine was lit and in this DVD two of the survivors spoke of what happened that day. The women and children were set alight in the village church. Around 640+ people were murdered that day and the entire village was burnt and destroyed that day. While these were not the only people to be murdered like this or villages destroyed, it was decided that due atrocities of this day would be remembered in an attempt to ensure that history never repeats itself. Today the villiage remainscan be accessed once visitors have been through the museum that is used as an entrance. Today’s residential township of Oradour is built next to the village.

As we arrived, having watched the video, I wanted to visit the oilliage out of respect for the two men’s stories and to honour the way the lived their lives serving the memory of those who lost their lives that day. When I walked into the museum, there was aperture of a massive swastika and I knew I had to leave. As I left the building l ran into Anne and she was having a similar response and together we decided to walk to the line village and have a cuppa. As we walked and talked I began to cry. Not so much in sorrow but out of heartbreak for the cruelty we are capable of meting out to others and in anger at the inability ‘remembering’ and ‘commenting’ has to put a halt to such atrocities being repeated today. The German people were often asked how could they at someone like Hitler rise to power? How can we as Australians stand by and permit such atrocities as Manus Island and Nauru to continue in our name? How can we blindly elect governments who promote policies that perpetuate such practices?
Eventually, Anne and I found a lovely spot to sit and chat and then we went for a walk through the residential village. By the way, during our walk, Anne and I discovered a lovely display in the local hairdressing salon! What do you think Leanne?

It was a beautiful morning and I believe for the others they enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about WWII.

After that we headed off to Orleans. I tell you what, you neatly do know you are not in Australia when you arrive at a massive servo and there is not a takeaway franchise in site! The places that are available are all serving fabulously delicious food.

When we arrived in Orleans, offer checking in David took us down the street to see the statue of Jeanne d’Arc and then led us to the cathedral. 


Again are cathedral was massive, and there were many altars honouring different saints. 

After that we had the nest of the evening to ourselves and I managed to do some window shopping and have dinner. When I returned to the hotel, Shirleen was sitting in the foyer and so we both popped into the bar and enjoyed a glass of Champagne- Verve Cliquot Rose! It was a lovely way to finish the evening!

After that it was bed! And what a room it was!

I almost forgot to mention we were right on the river front. It was just beautiful. 

Day 8 – Sarlat-du-Caneda and cruising the Dordogne River

By today I am feeling rather exhausted again from being around too many people. The number of people at Rocomodour had taken its toll and while I did sleep okay, it was a real struggle to get going this morning. Our first stop though was Sarlat-du-Caneda and it was busy! If I was feeling ‘peopled-out’ earlier I was dreading now what was to come.

Once again we clamoured off the bus & headed towards the church and town square.The closer we came, the more crowded it became! But we stayed together, got our instructions & then Shirleen and I headed off – back towards the shops.

By this stage I felt sick of churches & going in this one seemed to be a bit of a bun-fight just to get in the entrance so shopping it was and shopping did we! Ended up having an absolute ball! Yes I finally found something that both fitted me and was beautiful – and affordable! Wow! Then if that wasn’t enough I found these ‘groovy’ shoes that were also wonderfully priced.

Along the way we saw the work of some annoying artists, tasted some absolutely delicious cheese + I saw a herb and spice stall. The cheese that I liked Are best was ahe cow’s milk cheese with black truffles – but at 89E, I was not buying!

Then we had to find somewhere to eat for lunch and we decided do go to a patisserie where I ordered a croissant, a torte framboisie and une cafe alonges! Tres delicious!!!

After Sarlat, we were off to the Dordogne River cruise. To be honest, I was looking forward to this optional activity because we were going to see some castles where the English and French used to fight each other from opposite sides of the river. Driving into one township the scenery was pretty amazing! 

Not only that but the place was littered with families holidaying and canoeing out on the river. People were out having fun. In particular I noticed how much the men were enjoying being with their children – laughing and joking around, splashing each other! My memories of fathers are not like that; there was always a seriousness about them. l think in part that may be due to the pressures of fatherhood and the traditional notions and values of authority associated with such an image. Anyway some people even used the canoes to cross the river for a family picnic! The only element missing from this cruise was the ability to run my fingers through the water. As the photos show it really was an amazingly spectacular place.

That evening back at Brive, Anne, John and I went out to the Black Truffle and enjoyed another deliciously scrumptious meal complemented perfectly with a beautiful, local red wine. We all enjoyed the soup, and for me, this was the first time I had eaten cold soup & it was magnificent. This was followed by a main course of duck + raspberry & almond cake & sorbet for dessert. 

John enjoyed some alternative meals – the trout and rice pudding!

Afterthat it was bedtime. These days I am just crashing into bed big-time.

Day 7 – Off to Brive-la-Gaillarde

No more free-ways today! It was all country roads, tiny villages, historical buildings and beautiful, green countryside – so yes lots of wow moments along the way!

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Good morning Albi!

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Albi cathedral

As we were driving along lunch of what I was seeing took me back to what I had always imagined France to be! In some ways I felt like I was being transported into another world! There were places we drove through where David was telling us about how small French traditional communities were being transformed because many people including non-French people were moving into these places due to affordability and for tree-changes such as Figeac. Of course many of the places that were most ‘affordable’ were those houses that needed renovating and that often proved too costly for some!

Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Our first stop this morning was a little village called Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Again a beautiful place. However, today also happened to be the Catholic feast day of the Assumption (of Mary into heaven) and for this village and the time we arrived everyone still seemed to be enjoying a sleep-in.

Like usual our focal point was the church square but in this square was a beautiful clock face made using water fountains and lights. As it happened Shirleen and I were sitting having our usual morning tea when it turned 11am. At the same time a dog was playing in the fountain trying to drink/eat/catch the water! She was having so much fun and we just laughed!

Up until this point I had not been exposed to crowds and crowds of people but that was about to change at Rocamadour.

Rocamadour

One of the fabulous things about the traveling today was that we were driving along country roads rather than freeways and it seemed like around every corner there was something extraordinary to see. And Rocamadour was no exception.

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To be honest, I thought I was heading to Gondor and in some ways it was a three level version of the seven levels of Gondor -and yes this is a LOTR reference! Neither was l disappointed that it wasn’t Gondor once we had arrived! At the top was the castle, then we took the lift down to the second level where there was the church/cathedral and down below was the village!

By the way, this guy cookingthe crepes was so funny and he cooked amazing crepes. When he realized I was from Australia he started singing ‘Old Macdonald had a farm’ which apparently is Australian – not American or English. Anyway he was from Turkey and the nutella crepe he made me was superb!

As we waited to enter the area of the church – which was located below the castle and above the village, Shirleen and I started taking photos of the village. As you can see, the village sweeps along the bottom of the valley and seems to wind its way back up to the the top again. The notion of a village being long and narrow is so different to what I perceive as the norm. Anyway, as we were taking these photos a butterfly flew past! Both of us immediately looked at each other and yes, I managed to capture an image of the butterfly. Just beautiful – and on the feast of the Assumption – the celebration of Mary’s ascension into heaven.

In some ways it felt like the place had become Jesus’ den of iniquity, den of thieves and I could almost here him raging at the the sellers – especially up in the church area – even though I think in the centre of they were actually just like an information office that provided people with water and information. To be honest, my very catholic tradition rose up in my memories especially as the tour guide told us the history and the stories behind Rocomodour. At every point she was able to trek about the historical information as well as the religious and hagiographic type of story that went with the imagery and depictions in the artwork. I did love this painting of the skeletons on the wall (and the timing of one photo could not have been better – and yes these people are all my traveling companions!).

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The story goes that one day these young soldiers were riding their horses past a cemetery laughing and joking about how young, strong and healthy they were. Suddenly three soldiers buried in the cemetery rose from the grave and told are soldiers to beware – one day they too will become old and die! Of course I couldn’t help but think it was an early drawing of zombies on the wall of a church. You know in some ways, I was also reminded of today’s grafiti artists and the commissioning of artists to paint large paintings on the walls of buildings. Of course there is an irony in the description of what takes the form of art and grafitti in there too!

It is also here that we were given the opportunity to visit and pray with the Black Madonna. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined yet it was as it ‘should’ be – a white European looking statue painted black. That said, in amongst all the seemingly commercialisation of the place, There was a presence of holiness and calm when you actually managed to sit and be still. Our guide was awesome and extremely knowledgeable and she took us into chapels (and there were seven – one for each sacrament) that no-one else was allowed into; only two people had the keys! One of the bonuses of today was that it was a huge feast day and so in the cathedral there was a choir and orchestra practicing for the evening night’s concert and outside a choir was singing acapella style. The music was magical.

Collonges-la-Rouge

Next we were off to Collonges-la-Rouge – yes the red village; renown for being the most beautiful village in France and for its very red brick. And it was beautiful.

This was where David had booked our evening meal and yes, where yours truly had her first exposure to the infamous escargots!

And yes, as you can see, I ate all six! I can honestly say that I did enjoy trying them and they weren’t as slimy or rubbery as I had expected. Am I desperate to have them again? Probably not. Would I enjoy eating them again – yes! The food that was to follow was, once again absolutely delicious. I had the slow cooked duck followed by a chocolate cake filled with a chocolate mousse/custard.

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Here are also some photos of the other’s food.

During our dinner we had thunder rolling over and lots of rain. One of the conversations I enjoyed was the tasting of the wine they had served on our table. It seemed that the people I was sitting near- Sai, Eunice, Matt, Ed and Catherine all decided to put our wine tasting skills to the test. We first dried the white and very quickly moved to the red where the reviews were much more favourable. Both wines had good fruit on the nose but tasted somewhat young or maybe the term is ‘short’. For some reason though, l went back to the white and low and behold, exposure to the air had opened up the flavours of the wine and voila! Magnifique! What I enjoyed most about this conversation was ale way we all contributed our impressions of the wine rather Than one person being and expert. It really was a shared conversation and a building of knowledge and learning.

Brive-la-Gaillarde

Finally we arrived at Brive-la-Gaillarde. While the hotel was very nice, as has been the case everywhere we have stopped, one of the things I have noticed is the hotels charge an arm and a leg to do the laundry. While I was doing some hand washing I could not dry my jeans quickly and they needed washing. So, prepared to spend up to $100 to get four pairs of jeans and a dress washed l quickly raced down to reception. To my amazement and relief, the manager took my laundry and refused to charge me for it! I felt so relieved that I no longer had to worry about getting the washing done; and went to bed very happy!

Day 6 – Moissac to Albi and the most scrumptious food yet!

If you think I’ve had a wonderful + exciting time, it all pales into the background today! I still struggle to put into words the taste-bud explosion of sensations that began in Moissac and ended in Albi!

Arriving in Moissac for morning tea was amazing! The town itself was beautiful and again a place that I would love to spend more time in. Of course our first visit was to the the cloister and how inspiring was that. It was just beautiful to wander through the walkways and explore each of due rooms and their artefacts. 

Instead of having old books out on display you could view One through an interactive reading machine. Then I came across a small statue of a woman that spoke to me of meditation, contemplation and peace so of course I had to photograph it!

Then I found this tiny alcove and it became this tiny staircase that clearly led to the place where the nuns or monks would attend mass in the church. A few steps in and l started to wonder if this was such a good idea? l made it – both ways! 

After I wandered through the church a then into the town , finally netting with Italienne glacier et cafe noir alonges! 

Yes there does seem to be a pattern forming. Mind you, down in this part of France, it has been hot and sunny so some cool relief has been required. Anyway, as you do, these ladies came and sat nearby and we enjoyed a lovely conversation and then of course I had to race to the bus. That’s when it happened! I popped into this little shop and what did I find? Chocolates from Conques! 

As you know, I had been planning on popping into Conques but I have decided to stay with the tour – as I don’t want to miss a thing! Oh boy, was I excited! And yes I showed everyone on the bus! Mind you, poor David had to come and find me because I had misjudged where the bus would be! Oh well!

Then it was off to our ‘be our guest’ experience – and what a feast it was. Again our journey there included some beautiful scenery, especially the drive into the farm.

Jean-Francois was our host and chef and it was his family farm that we visited! It was beautiful – and guess what? You can stay at their B&B for only 56Euro a night! Everything we ate was so delicious a much of it was grown on the farm including the ducks, chickens and pigs? Thrown in there were some ingredients that if I had known what they were I would not have tried but they turned out to be delicious – like the duck and pork gizards salad!!! And yes I had two servings of that. The soup was magnificent and the courgettes coated in batter along with the chicken were delicious! The cheeses were beautiful too but I could not get enough of the soft cheese. The merengue island was floating on a creamy custard that complemented the plum tarte perfectly! Of course for drinks we start with a white wine cocktail to be followed with a delicious red. 

l cannot begin to tell you how fresh and flavoursome the food was. And the company of those I am travelling with has been wonderful, lots of fun and interesting conversations. Even as we climbed onto the bus it felt like the taste buds themselves were re-enacting the flavour hits of the meal. It really was incredible and Jean Francois and Olga were delightful people – warm and welcoming.

 Needless to say we all needed that sleep on the bus trip to Albi.

Of course when we arrived in Albi, David started to tell us about the Cathers and how it was because of their heretical ways that the catholic church built such a gigantic cathedral – a symbolic gesture of power. Well, it is as magnificent as it is imposing both on the landscape and inside! The photos can speak for themselves. 

One of the interesting features of the cathedral is the number of altars down each side of the church. 

Today each one is like an altar to two, three or four saints including St Rita as well as Mary and God but I imagined in the past when priests had to say mass at least once a day, they would be said here. l heard in the past that historically, alone was a time when lay people were not encouraged to receive Communion regularly and so attending mass was also about having the chance of “seeing” the body and blood of Christ. All priests, at this time were required to say mass and there were too many priests for just one altar – add to that and the old Latin mass where the priest did everything with his back to the congregation! Combine all this and it is no wonder they introduced the altar boy ringing the bell when the bread & wine were consecrated! This was the signal that let people know that their chance to see “Christ” was about to happen. Now picture this all happening at 10 different altars where priests were saying mass at staggered times. Can you get the picture that I had in my mind as I entered this cathedral? Yes I had a slightly irreverent chuckle as I imagined people scooting from one mass to the other! But also I was in awe of actually seeing a church built where possibly this was the original purpose of all the different altars.

After walking through the streets of Albi for about an hour and enjoying some very refreshing ice cream I found my way back to the hotel. 

Once refreshed I joined Shirleen down stairs for dinner in the restaurant. Well unbeknown to us we they had a wonderful chef who created the most beautiful dishes but again I’m getting ahead of myself. When we came down we decided to enjoy an aperitif before dinner and ordered a Perrine mint. We had been told it was a lovely, refreshing, non-alcoholic drink! Yeah right! Somewhere in the translation from English to French, we ended up with creme de menthe and perrier water!

My mum has always loved creme de menthe and I must say it was a most refreshing way to watch the day begin to slip away. The rivers have all become a but of a blur but I think this was the Tarn River and sitting out in the courtyard overlooking the bridges, river and city was just beautiful.

Our meal, as I mentioned was extremely delicious. For my first course I tried some froi gras which was followed by chicken and lobster! This was topped off with a chocolate cake dessert and coffee! Of course aside from everything tasting so delicious the plates were served beautifully too. I especially loved the dots on the dessert plate!

After that it was bed time. It really was an awesome day!

Day 5 – Pilat, Arcachon and Saint Emilion

The day started and l was not ready to be on the bus with everyone! To top it off, when I got on the bus, someone was sitting in my seat! Yes yours truly was really not coping. Fortunately, Shirleen picked up on my anxiety and kindly swapped seats. However, my day turned into a fabulous day where I had so much fun!

First stop was Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune.To this point I had been skeptical – I mean surely if you have seen one sand dune, you’ve seen them all? But no, this sand dune was extremely impressive and had my leg been feeling better I would have climbed those stairs. As is, I nearly did but thought the better of it. Just as well, because we didn’t stop.

By this stage, Shirleen. I had caught up and we decided that we would go back for a wander amongst the shops. For me, that meant coffee and ice-cream – and I had already spotted a place that did sundaes. Both of us ordered and were totally gobsmacked by what we were served! And yes, it was totally delicious. Mine was called Cococabana and lined up to its name!

After that it was off to Arcachon and the city of oysters and muscles and fabulous beaches. 

Shirleen has become a great wandering partner because we can enjoy each other’s company and do our own thing without “needing” do hold each other’s hand. So off we wandered, found some street markets and then food markets. Here we bought a pmmet of strawberries and raspberries and proceeded to eat most of them by the time they were ready to save us. Then we tried finding some fish a chips but to no avail so I settled for quiche legume and an eclair. Of course being a beachside resort I couldn’t resist all the ice-cream shops so we stopped at Sorbet Armour for some ice cream in a cone! Then we were back on the bus and off to saint Emilion.

After a nap on the bus we arrived at Saint Emilion and it was beautiful!

David walked as all down to the town square and as we walked he told us snippets of information using an audio set that has about a 100m range so we can actually wander and still know what the group is up to! Once at the square we got to spend about 40mins wandering around and the place was just beautiful. I managed to find a little artists’ courtyard and found myself a beautiful Scarf! 

Then it was off to Saint Emilion’s hermitage which was a cave dug into the limestone rock and where he lived for 17 years – never coming out! 

We then wandered down through the catacombs where he had been buried and into the church; all of which had been carved into the one piece of rock. It was actually quite phenomenal. Camille our guide was fabulous a extremely knowledgeable. Of course at a later stage the built a clock tower on top of the church and now some of the pillars have to be supported to stop the weight of the tower from crushing the church entirely. Finally we finish and start to head off to the winery tour and tasting. The walk back up through the township was a struggle. No only was I exhausted but my leg a feet were killing me! Now while a Panadol may have helped out somewhat, I wanted to enjoy some wine so l soldiered on!

Once again, in viewing how the wine was made, we got to taste their merlot grapes. They were so sweet any ymmy but for our winery guide, Stacey, they were not sweet enough yet to make wine. The winery we visited was a Grand Cru winery and it grew only merlot and cabernet frane grapes. Again we had a wonderful and informative guide who had us through the underground cellars and explained the process. One of the interesting aspects of all this digging underground here in thewinery and in the church was the fact that the people used the dug out limestone for their buildings and to onsell to others.

I must confess though as interesting as all this was, I was exhausted! All the walking on uneven surfaces & the hills was taking its toll.To be honest I felt rather embarrassed struggling to keep up and was beginning to wonder if I had taken on too much! Yes it was a gruelling day of walking in thick sand in the morning and uneven, hilly cobblestones in the afternoon.

Anyway, still feeling sorry for myself, I managed to stay upright for the tasting! And it was worth it. We were also given a lesson on how to taste wine and with that tasted both their early grape variety and an older grape variety that had been aged as well. The first wine was lovely but the second one was magnificent! After that it was back on the bus and return to Bordeaux. To this point I had loved Arcachon and Saint Emilion. They were beautiful towns and in particular I felt I would love a holiday in Arcachon – aside from being a great beachside resort, these were bike paths everywhere so exploring the area would be quite amazing. At this point I hadn’t really warmed to Bordeaux itself.

Upon our return to Bordeaux I realised that I had better have dinner before I returned to the hotel and David pointed me in the direction of a restaurant or two! Sitting myself down at al lovely street cafe/brassiere, I was just about to order, when Shirleen arrived and she was like, ‘Oh gosh, mark you for saving me! I couldn’t find any take-away and was about to grab something at McDonalds!” Well, we proceeded to have a lovely evening chatting and swapping stories. The beauty about this place was that the meal was simple, and yummy. I had a steak and chips followed by crepe grand marnier and chocolate ice-cream. 

Then as we wandered back to our hotel through the square, we spotted some guys dancing! They reminded me of the style of dancing they did in the “step-up” movies. Sometimes I wondered how they didn’t hurt themselves!

Finally it was sleep time!