19 September 2017

Day 33 - Heading for Home

18 Sept

It was a foggy start to the day.
Foggy Le Mans
We weren't in a big hurry to do less than 300km for the day. We stuck with the scenic route, as much as the fog would let us. The main crops from the last few days of grapes, corn and sunflowers have given way to potatoes and cattle farming.

We stopped in a little village which had a central parking area for a walk around and to find a coffee. One thing we've noticed in the village cafes and boulangeries we have stopped at is the wonderful sense of community. Something lacking in the larger cities and oversized supermarkets. As non-French speaking strangers, we tended to stick out a bit, but nonetheless were welcomed into the establishments.
Our coffee stop in L'Aigle - nice people
European Semi-drivers have to work hard sometimes. Switchback roads and narrow village streets are everywhere.
An even bigger Volvo negotiates the narrow streets.
Our day’s travel has been fog, sunshine, rain, thunderstorms - a bit like when we first arrived here so long ago. For this time of year we have enjoyed good weather when it was the most appropriate. There have been some days we were thankful for not being on a motorcycle. However, some of the roads have whetted the appetite …

We are ensconced in our room for the night. Everything!!! has been unloaded from the car. With some creative packing, what is to travel home is packed into our two suitcases. No new cases required. Tomorrow’s check in at the airport will be telling.

We have had a good look around France. We haven't ventured into Paris this time.

Tonight we steel ourselves for the long haul back to reality … our arrival should be 23:15 on 20 Sept if all goes smoothly.

18 September 2017

Day 32 - Stop-off To Look At More Cars

17 Sept

We woke to rain. Overnight there had been a few passing thunderstorms rumbling into our sleep.

There was less than 300km to do today, so scenic was the option again. It's a leisurely drive through the villages, some take great pride in their roundabouts. Today’s were no exception - a dinosaur made up of plants.
Here's one for you to copy Jeff

We were almost through one village when we saw something odd. A u-turn and we were looking at a baguette vending machine. €1 for a traditional 250g baguette. Never thought we'd seen that.
A definite "Only in France" moment
In setting the route for today, we planned a waypoint for Le Musée 24 Heures du Mans. What a great way to spend a couple of hours. Coincidentally, the local fair was on today as well. There was a lot of traffic to negotiate before finding a car park for the Volvo, a kilometer away.  Nice day for a walk.
One of the first racing motorcycles

A few more recent

Some brilliant old cars in the collection.

"Outta My Way"

My favourite - Bugatti of course.

Not so favourite, but it was actually just an art piece made from road signs.

Time to find our stop in Le Mans. Our accommodation is the Hotel de la Pommerie. It's delightful. We found all the supermarkets are closed on Sunday afternoons, so we had to find something else for dinner. We stood at the counter of the local Quick burger joint, for about 20 minutes without any eye contact whatsoever from the people taking and preparing orders. So we left. We drove around looking for somewhere to eat. There were a few places open, but nothing with close parking. Not ideal when the aches and pains are making their presence felt. We eventually found a sandwich or two to eat back in our rooms. What a complete turn around from yesterday’s culinary experiences.

Tomorrow is our last full day in France.

17 September 2017

Day 31 - An Island Birthday

View of the Atlantic Ocean from our Motel room.
16 Sept

Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?

Happy birthday, Clint.
Doing my best Eddie impression.

We've spent a relaxing day exploring Île de Ré with a leisurely drive taking in the lighthouse at the westernmost point and the ruins of a church where Minerva had a fly. 

Baleines Lighthouse

Church ruins Les Châteliers
We took advantage of our location and had a wonderful meal of fresh seafood. Earlier we noticed the bridge to the island had a footpath, so after lunch we walked to the top. 
Pont De Ré
For the rest of the afternoon we watched a 1995 movie “Heat” which was dubbed in French and no subtitles. Interesting to see how well the dubbing matched the movements.

Tomorrow we are in the road again for our second last night in Europe.

16 September 2017

Day 30 - Just A Drive Day

15 Sept

Today was just a drive day, nothing in particular we wanted to see. The drive however, was like taking Mt Tamborine, Mt Glorious and Maleny, Montville roads for several hundred kilometres.
Regular avenue.
The centres of the roundabouts in the Toulouse-Blagnac region were filled with either landscaped plants or sculptures.

Roundabout sculpture
We had been following the Canal des Deux Mers. The canal follows the railway for a lot of the way. It joins the Mediterranean to the Atlantic coast.  It looked like we'd come across another stage of the Tour de France as one town had bicycles suspended from the light poles.

As we were driving into one town, Golfech, the steam from the power plant dominated the sky.  We had morning coffee and eclairs in a lovely boulangerie.
Only steam from a nuclear power plant.

The clouds created by the cooling towers generated a light rain over the town.
At the edge of the Bordeaux region we stopped beside a vineyard to give Minerva a fly. Rain was approaching so we didn't stay too long.
White wine in the making

Reds likewise - vintage is nigh

Hi there - drone selfie

The scene near Bordeaux

We bypassed Bordeaux proper and continued through the vineyards of the district. Eventually we had to join the main flow of traffic as there was only one road to our destination. Beside the bridge we used to cross to the Ile du Re There was another bridge, of sorts. It looked to be a suspension bridge, but a very big one.
Not real sure....
We've stopped for two nights in a hotel with a room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We've seen the Atlantic from the eastern side and now we're seeing it from the western side. 
View from out hotel room.  Good night.

15 September 2017

Day 29 - Canals and Bridges

14 Sept
A common site as we travel through small villages with the GPS set on scenic.

Packed up and time to move on. Our start was in fog. We were travelling in a narrow piece of land between a lake and the sea. Again we had the scenic route beside farms and through villages. It's much more interesting travel than the freeways.
The flamingos were still asleep.

A slightly foggy morning on the coast

We arrived in Béziers to look for the canal and lock system, the Seven Locks of Fonserannes. After a bit of navigating, we found the locks and were able to see three houseboats pass through the last two locks. We considered having more of a look around but the very strong gusts of wind, whipping up the sand made it too uncomfortable to stay.
Moving through the locks

From down there...

...to up here in a few minutes - several times to continue their journey.
The crew works hard.

A disused lock door is a haven for plants.

Next point of interest for the day is the Viaduc de Millay. We drove over it, around and under it. The bonus was Peyre. The village is built into the cliff face. A superb contrast of old and new.
We drove over it (€10.10 toll)...

...looked from the info site...

...drove under it...

...got a shot from near Peyre...

... and from a lower bridge...

...and parked under it.

Peyre is a fascinating little village

The quickest way to Toulouse was over A68 taking in Albi. There are some good riding roads through this way.
As usual we made it into Toulouse on peak hour. Thankfully, for most of the trip we were against the congestion.

The accommodation is in the flight path of Toulouse airport. So far the planes have been on approach as they fly overhead. Wonder what time the airport closes?

14 September 2017

Day 28 - Rest Day

13 Sept

Today was a stay put day near Montpellier (Le Grad du Roi to be exact). We had a sleep in until 7am.

The winds were reasonably calm and this was our first chance of testing Minerva following her interface with the laptop for re-calibration. We tried to find a quiet time to have a fly, but all too soon, the morning walkers found us. A small crowd gathered with neither speaking either ones language. Our communication was with sign language and demonstration.
Nevertheless, they were impressed.
Morning walkers were fascinated.

Le Grad du Roi is a Southern France seaside resort and retirement town.

It was also our first chance to dip our toes in the Mediterranean Sea. We walked in the water, only about ankle deep and took in our surroundings. The beach is manicured making it easy to leave our footprints in the sand.
Our first paddle in the Mediterranean Sea

Must do a selfie.

Mediterranean paddling

After that we headed back to the unit to research the next part or our trip. We have accommodation booked for Toulouse. The Airbus Industries tour was recommended to us but when we found the important information, we had left it too late. For non-EU residents, we are required to book two business days in advance, with passport identification. Oh well, as we always say … there's reason to return.

The fort we had seen yesterday - actually Aigues-Mortes built by the Romans - was where we spent an hour or three wandering around the laneways and poking into shops. As always, it was worth checking to see if the item was locally made. There were some bargains to be had due it being the end of summer.
Like a fort from the outside

Like a town from the inside

Charming laneways

Very old buildings combine with modern shops and restaurants.

On the way back, we made a point of stopping to try to photograph the flamingos. Not easy with the limited camera equipment we are carrying.
Distant flamingos

Two fishing - one flying

All up, it’s been a restful day.