I remember when I first arrived in our little village I was immediately hooked on the view out front. Despite the cloudy drizzle (I think it was around September '04) I could just make out the distant horizon across the valley. I've been looking at that view for about fourteen years now. It's changed a bit. Some trees have gone and others have been planted. Brush and scrub have been cleared and new fields claimed. And, of course, the view changes with seasons. But the main change is the lighting. Sometimes bright, sometimes dull, sometimes clear, sometimes misty. Take this morning for example. Sunny and misty. Very Turneresque. The view constantly changed as the mists rolled about and the sun rose higher. Enthralling. I think that's the right word.
It's around this time of year that hundreds (nay, probably thousands) of cranes (called 'grue' in France, or maybe 'grues' - dunneau for sure) fly south from somewhere around Finland (and/or Russia, Sweden, Germany and other chilly northern places) and head towards the warmer climes of countries such as Spain and north Africa (apparently Algeria is a popular spot) where they spend the winter months. One of their favoured routes is a sort of diagonal line (north-east to south-west) over France, which, of course, means they fly directly over our neck of the woods.
Knowing that thousands of these birdies are likely to be flying overhead at any given moment, means that one is constantly looking skywards in the hope of spotting a gang of feathered travellers other than the usual crows, magpies, sparrows or hawks. This usually results in a stiff neck and/or an unfortunate treading in a cowpat or a pile of dog poo. But..., if one is lucky enough to be in the presence of these migrating oiseaux, one may be unlucky enough to have one's vision impaired by bleedin' clouds. In a circumstance such as that, one will merely be able to hear the flock (or is it a gaggle of grues?) as it passes unseen overhead due to their excited chattering as they trundle onwards. Loud chattering. Non stop chattering while fluttering.
A few weeks back, when Don was here, we heard a chattering in the sky and, sure enough, a gang of grue (or should that be grues?) eventually appeared. Marvellous sight. Time stood still. So did I. Which, of course, meant that I didn't manage to grab my camera in time to take a few snaps.
However, a couple of days ago, another distant chattering way off in the east signalling the possible arrival of another gang of grue. Luckily the sky was fairly clear. Grabbed my camera in the hope of getting some snaps. They flew almost directly overhead. Absolutely fabbeau. Then they were gone.
Georgie and Donnie reached the ripe old age of sixty last week (Wednesday). In order to celebrate this milestone Donnie had flown out from London to stay with us for a few days as we attacked the Dordogne area for a birthday treat. First stop was the Lidl supermarché at Egletons where we stocked up with grub, vino and champagne for our overnight stay at some gite Georgie had booked. Second stop was Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne where we arrived just after lunchtime. Had the obligatory coffee by the town centre trees then did the obligatory stroll by the river where we took the obligatory snaps with the riverside church in the background. Touristy stuff done we headed on to the gite. This turned out to be a splendid gaff in a splendid spot overlooking Queyssac-les-Vignes run by a charming English couple who had only recently escaped Angleterre. Cracked open the champers as the sun slowly slid below the distant western horizon.
Next day we decided to ask if we could book the gite for another night. Luckily we could, so we had a whole day to go to..., er..., wherever. Georgie suggested the historic village of Carennac on the Dordogne river. So off we went. Fascinating place, and apparently quite famous (typically, I'd never heard of it). Had a coffee on the patio of an hotel where a coachload of Japanese tourists were noshing lunch. Normally this patio is shut in rainy October (outside the tourist season) but what with the blazing sunshine and balmy weather they'd decided to keep it open. Gosh, it was hot. And, due to lack of rain, the river below was a mere shadow of its former self. Anyways, the birthday girls weren't complaining.
With an afternoon to kill, Georgie suggested we boogy on to Rocamadour, as Donnie had never been there. So off we went. Arrived there and looked down the valley at the dizzying sight below. Then drove down to the bottom, turned around and drove back up again. To reach the old town you had to park in the valley and then leg it up a thousand steps - couldn't be arsed. Back at the top I fancied a coffee and sarnie. All three caffs that we visited politely said "bugger off, we shut at two" (t'was now two fifteen). So I buggered off in a huff.
Next, we headed for our barn and ruin of a cottage near Serilhac. Seemed a good idea at the time. Hadn't been there for years. Thought it may have fallen down. It's on the way back to the gite so might as well pop in. Getting to it is a bit tricky though. Bottom gear wobble up a bumpy, pot-holed, sump-bashing, rocky track. Then park up and continue on foot. Takes about an hour top to bottom. Knackering. But the view from the top, south over the Dordogne area, makes all the effort worthwhile. Especially on a sunny day.
Arrived back at the gite. Bit tired. Fattygayed, as I call it. Been a long day. Only had a few rows. Mainly about map-reading and hitting towns with roadworks and getting diverted in completely the wrong direction. Usual stuff. Gasping for the soirée's vino. Pinot Noir. Nodded off on the settee in front of the telly. Woken up and led to bed.
Next day (Friday) packed up and headed north for home following the Dordogne valley. Very pretty route. Stopped off at Argentat, parked up and sauntered down to the river. Sat at a table in the sunshine outside a fab riverside caff where Don et moi had coffee while Georgie demolished a choccy and vanilla ice cream perched on a waffle (er, the ice cream was on the waffle, not Georgie).
Apparently flat-bottomed barges used to travel up and down the Dordogne from Bordeaux to Argentat carrying goodies like wood and slate. More research required. One of these barges is perched on the riverside as a museum piece and/or tourist attraction and/or educational heritage item. Fascinating. Were they horse-drawn, windsail driven or steam engine powered? More research required.
Leaving Argentat, the landscape changed from smooth Dordogny to roughish uplands. Soft to hard. Felt different. Still pretty, but different. Completed our three day loop by arriving at Egletons where we once again raided Lidl. Then home.
Been a good sixtieth. Lucky with the weather once again. Same as last year. But Georgie says snow is forecast for this coming week-end. Ah well, soon be spring.
Sold my BMW Funduro a few weeks back. Only rode it a couple of times. Went well, ideal for pottering around the local countryside. Trouble was, it was slightly too high to swing my leg over. This meant I had to get on and off by standing on the footrest then slowly easing my leg over. All a bit precarious. Hence the sale. Went to a very nice elderly chap who bought it as his final bike after a chest operation.
With an empty space in the garage and being without a bike for the first time in over half a century I started searching for a bike with a low seat height. Obvious choice would be an Harley Davidson but budgetary constraints, tractor-like engine characteristics (apart from the V-Rod model with an interesting engine developed in partnership with Porsche which many Harley fans frown upon as not being a proper Harley) and an image which suits bank manager types riding once a week on Sundays (if it's sunny) wearing ripped teeshirts and red bandanas, put me off.
After much searching I'd narrowed it down to a very low kilomètrage (1200kms) 1100cc Yamaha Virago and a 750cc Moto Guzzi V7 Stone 11 (two, not the three which is very new and a bit pricey). But..., the Virago was way up north near Strasbourg and the seller wasn't prepared to accept an offer below €4500 on his €4750 price. Have to admit I was tempted but the weather was nasty (not good for driving) and it was almost the shortest day (again, not good for driving) and getting there and back would mean an overnight stay somewhere. All seemed too much of an hassle. This left the Guzzi as a front runner. But..., €5k, hmm, pricey. Then, as is often the case, something else popped up: a very low kilomètrage 750cc Moto Guzzi Nevada with just one owner from new (a lady), being sold in a village about 25 miles south of relatively nearby Clermont Ferrand.
To cut a boring story short, I gave her an offer she couldn't refuse (well, she could have I suppose, but she didn't), then hurtled along to St. Leonard de Noblat for a cheque de banque, then loaded up the trailer and headed off to Auzat-la-Combelle with Georgie, Hamish and a Thermos. Weather was a bit iffy going there (snow, mist, etc.) but not too bad coming back. Bike was fab, so too the seller and her family. Job done. Roll on spring.
It's around this time of year that cranes migrate south from northern Europe, Russia and other chilly places to the warmer winter climes such as Spain and northern Africa. On their journey many pass over our region of France and if you're lucky you can hear them coming (they chatter constantly) and then spot them high in the sky. Trouble is, at such moments, one rarely has a camera close at hand. However, ce matin, Georgie happened to be outside when three or four gangs of these feathered warblers flew overhead so she shouted and I hurriedly took a few snaps. Disaster. Most of the pics were out of focus (without zoom telephoto), others missed their target (with zoom telephoto) and others didn't happen due to flattery battery. Then they were gone. Shown here are two of the best pics which just go to show how bad the others were. Ah well, maybe better luck when they fly north in spring.
This is annoying. I can no longer respond to comments made by people kind enough to post messages. When I click on 'reply' there's a box titled ' Enter your reply...' followed by the instruction 'Reply as', followed by the instruction 'Select profile' with the following list of options: Google Account, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM, and OpenID. Huh? Jibberish. Then when I type a message, click on an option (e.g. Google Account) and press 'Publish', nothing happens, zilch, zero. As I said, it's annoying. And..., it makes me appear ungrateful for people making the effort to comment on my bloggings, which just ain't right. Grr.
Georgie's birthday yesterday. Hot and sunny (in mid October?!) so set off for a couple of places she wanted to visit. Boogied across the plateau de Millevaches (splendid area and a well kept secret) without a cloud in the sky. Got stopped by the cops in the middle of nowhere but allowed to continue when they discovered I was anglais - weird. Stopped off at Egletons for a coffee. Next stop, Curemont. Apparently it's one of France's famous historical villages (typically, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had) with the added attraction of having magical healing properties (hence 'cure' in the name). Being on the tourist map, visitor parking was somewhere outside the village, with (surprise, surprise) a very modern ticket machine that gobbled cash. While Georgie marched off to inspect the village, I gently strolled with Hamish up the adjacent ridge. Great views.
Half an hour later, cultural visit over, Georgie returned and we hit the road for Turenne. Again, I'd never heard of it but Georgie had. And again Georgie marched off, this time to the hilltop castle and garden (garden photo nicked from web) while I gently strolled around the lower regions of the touristy village with Hamish (advancing age and physical decline dictate that extreme exercise be kept to a minimum). Killing time, I found a glass of rosé and a fig tree interesting (hence boring photos). About an hour or so later, Georgie returned from up high and joined me outside a pretty café where I was leaking coffee from every pore. She then demolished a lethal looking ice cream while Hamish was busy leaving his calling card on a wide variety of vertical thingies much to the disapproval of la madame propriètaire.
Next, head for home via Collanges La Rouge (yes, it's a red village - photo nicked from web) and a hillside road near Serilhac where we stopped to view our distant barn which, surprisingly, still seemed to be standing, then motorway to Ussel (in a 3.0 V6 Alfa one has to keep eyes peeled for cops) where we lashed out on a McDonald's each, then dogwalk, home and a glass or deux of champers.
P.S. Photo of barn from years back plus photo of impressive view:
Bohemian hermit recluse hiding in the mist-shrouded hills and backwoods of central France; went to art school in the mid-Sixties and never really left; masochistic supporter of Aldershotnil FC; fascinated by the mystery of disappearing odd socks; follically, cosmetically and vertically challenged but horizontally unchallenged, otherwise perfect (it says here); probably one of the luckiest geezers in the whole wide world.