Sunday, 31 August 2008

Our Tour de France

I have made a map, with the places we stayed and the route (approximate) that we took during our summer holiday trip. It gives a bit of an idea of the distance and the different areas that we visited. The blue markers are the places where we stopped.

View Larger Map

It was a lot of travelling, and some days were better than others, but overall a very happy trip with lots of interesting things and friendly people. Thanks to all those friends who hosted us. We hope we can return the favour one day when you visit Australia.

A Mountain Picnic

Yesterday we had a lovely day with Georges and Gaby, our French "grandparents". We drove up to the Alp d'Huez and continued up to a lake where we could have a picnic on the grass near the edge of the lake which was like carpet. The weather was perfect - clear and warm. It would have been hot down in our valley so it was a good day to go up into the mountains to escape the heat.
The mountain views are spectacular, so I had difficulty choosing just a few photos to put on the blog.
We had our traditional picnic fare of egg-and-bacon pie and salad, tarte aux pommes (apple tart), with orange juice and Perrier water.

Lakeside picnic

There was plenty of fishing activity around the lake (permit required), but we didn't actually see anyone reel in a fish. Schools of tiny little fish at the edge of the lake was the closest we got to the beautiful rainbow trout that were pictured on the fishing information signs. We paddled in the water, although one little boy did more paddling than the rest of us and ended up with very wet jeans. With the jeans removed he spent the rest of the day in just a nappy. [Don't get me started on this one! Yes he is still wearing nappies. Yes school starts in three days time. Yes he has to be toilet-trained in order to start school. Any miracle toilet training fairies out there?]

Hugh with Gaby, before the jeans got too wet.

After the picnic we walked around the lake, and saw the two other lakes nearby. The scenery was absolutely amazing, and there were plenty of other people (and their dogs) walking, or riding mountain bikes, but I'm surprised there weren't more people around. Maybe most people like to go to the beach, rather than the mountains, for summer holidays. But I loved it with the walking opportunities, and with all the hotels in Alpe d'Huez I reckon it would be a good choice as a summer honeymoon destination. (Only problem is if I wanted another honeymoon I would need another husband, and I think one is enough!)
On the way home we stopped at the Refuge de Sarenne and had a drink.

Roger and a lot of empty glasses. I love the slab of rock for the table.

We were able to climb a small hill across the road to get a good view of the valley and a glacier on the opposite mountain. We also met a group of Swiss motorcyclists, one of whom kindly let our moto-mad Hugh sit on his big bike!

Hugh - M. Moto!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

We're Back

We're back from our road trip around France. We travelled 3,500kms (Roger did all the driving) and I am thinking of doing a map to show you where we went. Maybe I'll get around to it, but the holiday mode is hard to shake.
We were welcomed by plenty of friends, both old and new, along the way. At every stop we wished we could stay longer.
I will have some busy times in the next week trying to cover all of the things we saw and did. And thousands of photos to sort and resize for the blog.

Can you guess one of the places we visited?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

On The Road

We have travelled quite a few kilometres since my last post.
Now we find ourselves at Sainte Cecile, with Alan and Shirley Brown. Alan was my high school French teacher, and for some of the time I was the only student. He was the teacher who organised the school trip when I first came to France in 1982, and has lived here permanently for over 20 years.
Last night we had a bit of video entertainment when he showed snippets of the video taken back in 1982.
We are going to stay here one more night before heading to Paris.

I will be back in touch when I have internet access again...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

A Stitch in Time

We are packing to go away on our holiday, but we won't leave today. This morning Bonnie had a huge tantrum, and then went to sleep on my bed. When she woke up, somehow she knocked a glass lamp off the shelf above the bed. It landed on her head and caused me to panic. There was lots of blood and I freaked out. But Roger, always calm and a trained ambulance officer, took it in his stride and tried to tell me it was not serious. There is always a lot of blood when you cut your head.
Anyway I insisted on taking Bonnie to the doctor, and Bonnie now has one stitch in her head.
Unfortunately she won't let me take a photo of it to put on the blog!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Coffre de Toit

Roger's job yesterday afternoon was to mount this box onto the roof of the car. We will need all the space we can get when we set off on our holiday tomorrow (if we're ready by then!)
We are going to take tents and sleeping bags and picnic gear, as we are not really sure what the next two weeks will bring. Our plans are to go first to visit people in the region of Toulouse, and then head towards Paris.
Hugh started to "help" Roger, but he didn't last long...

Hugh, fast asleep on the ground, with his Blue Bear as a pillow.

When I got back from the château visit this is where I found him, just outside the garage door.

Local Château

Odette and Sophie at the Château du Touvet.

The Château du Touvet.

Yesterday afternoon I took Sophie and Odette to visit the Château du Touvet, which is only a few kilometres from Saint Marie d'Alloix. During Sophie's last week of school she had walked there with her class for a school excursion, so it is not far at all, even though it is in the next village.
The gardens gave me plenty of ideas for upgrading when I get home... If only there was a mountain stream to supply the water. The water features are the highlight of the garden, and the sound of running water was ever present in the garden.

The magnificent stairway waterfall in the garden.

And the tour inside gave me an idea of how much work and expense there is in maintaining an old château like this, although only some of the rooms on the ground floor where included in the guided tour. The family who live there obviously have their private rooms on the upper floors. The guided tour was very informative, and with only one other couple there at the same time as us it was easy to ask questions. If you want to find out more about the chateau you can look at their website.

Other People's Things

Doing a home exchange means that we are living in someone else's house for the year. Having said that, it has always felt like our home. But when something goes wrong, it is always worse than when it happens in your own place.
Every time I see a chip in some crockery I wonder if it was there before, or if we have done it. Ditto with stains on the sofa, scratches on the wall, and marks on the furniture. What if it is a family heirloom, or part of a matching set that is irreplaceable? Like this plate that said "W.H.Grindley, Staffordshire England" on the bottom. At least when it has IKEA written on the bottom I don't feel so bad.

Can you guess who the culprit was this time?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Inflatable Pool

Bonnie holding Hugh in the inflatable pool.

During a bout of hot weather we decided to buy a paddling pool. I wanted one that was big enough for all of us to get in at once, so chose this one. Unfortunately it is quite deep for Hugh, so we don't fill it very full. It is certainly very refreshing to have a dip on a hot afternoon like today.


The office at the Mairie.

This morning Roger had to go down to the local Mairie, and use this office for his supervised exam (Isabel is on holiday - isn't everyone - so she wasn't there to keep him company). The exam was a multiple choice exam online, so he got his results straight away, which is good for the nerves.
And although he got a few wrong, he made 94%, which was fantastic. But he won't be doing any more study while we are in France. He said I can do some next, so I'll be searching online for an interesting course...

Monday, 4 August 2008


Roger studying. And eating, and drinking...

Roger has been fitting in some study whenever he can. It's a bit hard to get a good solid session in during school holidays, but his exam is tomorrow, so he is doing what he can.
He is studying the "Diploma of Financial Services (Financial Planning)" by distance education through a company called Kaplan. This is the first unit he has been doing while we are in France, and I don't know if he would be able to manage another unit while he is working on the farm in Australia. Anyway, we'll see if he passes his exam tomorrow before we worry about doing another unit!

Colour Management

I have downloaded the new version of my favourite computer program, PhotoShopCS3. And also a trial version of Adobe Lightroom (wow!) which is keeping me busy.
But what has happened to my colour management?? As usual an upgrade takes some getting used to, but it looks like I need to do some learning too, as all my photos look great in Lightroom but go a bit murky when printed or posted on the web. I'll have to look into colour profiles and see what's going on...
So in the previous posts the people weren't sick, the photos just make them look a bit off colour!

Does Bonnie look a bit better here?
Compared to the last time...

Sisters in France

Check out the new blog that Sophie and Bonnie have made.
Bonnie was very keen to put her photos on my blog, but we decided that it would be better if she had her own.
Sophie has been doing the typing, and she has been very productive with the posts for the first two days - puts me to shame!
Jump to to have a look at their version of events.
And while you are there, add a comment to let them know that you have had a look.

Happy Birthday Bonnie

Lots of colouring here...

Bonnie had her 8th birthday yesterday. This is one of the presents we gave her, so we should be seeing some brightly coloured artworks being produced.
I made a chocolate cake for her birthday cake, and as you can see it went down pretty well.


Sunday, 3 August 2008

Homemade Pasta

This afternoon we were invited to our neighbours' place for lunch. We called it "Chez Torelli".

Eric: chef extraordinaire!

Eric and Ann are child-free for a week or so, with each of their two boys (the same age as Odette and Hugh) going to a different grandmother for a holiday. Roger thinks it's a pity that we haven't got four grandmothers in France!!
Eric made us some green pasta, from his grandmother's secret recipe (oh yes, the secret is eggs, flour and a little bit of oil, with boiled silverbeet). His grandmother, who passed away last month, was born in Italy, and she taught Eric Italian cooking,and to speak Italian. While we were there his Italian cousin phoned and he chatted away in Italian, then returned to talk to us in English, although his first language is French. I wish I was multilingual...
Eric let Sophie and Bonnie help with making the pasta. That was lots of fun, and we learnt a lot about the process. It was also a good photo opportunity...

Bonnie rolling out pasta

Team work in the kitchen

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, as I had left it to download the photos I'd taken this morning. Luckily Bonnie had her camera there - she is keen to take photos now she has her own blog!

The moment we've been waiting for!

Can you tell Hugh enjoyed his pasta?

Thanks Eric and Anne for a nice long relaxed and delicious lunch.