Saturday, 27 August 2016

Le Mont-Dore to Super Besse...

We've been to the Auvergne quite a few times over the years. The first was in 1980 on a ski holiday with a group of school children. Our hotel was at La Bourboule, but the skiing area was at Le Mont-Dore. Although we haven't skied there since (we've opted for the Swiss and French Alps, which in the higher resorts is more snow-sure) the ski area and lift system has developed and the resort is linked over the Massive de Sancy to Super Besse. Super Besse is a purpose built resort and has little of the charm of more traditional villages, but it does have mountains, a lake and even an indoor swimming pool. It was crowded with people making the most of the last sunny days of the school holidays.

The intrepid cyclists were cycling up over the Col de Robert and taking a detour around Lac Chambon, Murol, St Nectaire (of the cheese fame) and Besse (for coffee) and then taking the massive climb up to Super Besse, which varies between 7 and 12% for around 7km. The total ride was about 50km. I hope you're impressed - I was!! 

I drove the support vehicle which involved passing them a couple of times, pipping the horn, shouting the "allez, allez" and blasting out a few bars of Born to Run. My job done I headed to the traditional stone and cobble village of Besse et St Anastaise to do some window shopping and have a drink in the town square. It's thirsty work!

I have better photographs of Besse on my camera, which I'll download to my laptop and update.

The scenery was stunning. 

It's a mammoth task getting the bikes on to the roof bars...

A cooling dip in the lake...

Finally, you know you are in a ski resort when three apples and three tomatoes cost 4€87!

To round off the day we walked around the crater lake. Lac Pavin. We remembered doing this in 1994 with Rhiannon and our Dutch friends Robert and Erna Van der Pieterman, Maaike, Erik and Frank. 

Happy days...

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On tour in the Auvergne

  ** I know that the photographs and font won't be right but I'm doing this post via iPad. I'll correct them when I get back to my laptop**

We've spent a couple of lovely days in the Cantal. Tim and Tom have cycled in the footsteps (or should it be wheel tracks?) of Chris Froome et al up from Salers to the top of the Pas de Peyrol and down the other side. The Pas de Peyrol is just below Puy Mary. Yesterday we followed in our own footsteps of 22 years previous and climbed up Puy Mary. I was 38 then and found the climb easier, but knocking 60 still made it without the need for extra oxygen or a defibrillator! We missed Rhiannon, but she has her own mountains to climb, and will soon be off to even warmer climes on her honeymoon to Sri Lanka!
I provided backup in the car but unfortunately couldn't run to the Ford Mustang of Dave rails ford and Team Sky. 

I'm very proud of Tim and Tom, but livid that a Brit in a Toyota estate prevented me from behind at the summit to welcome them. It's a long story, but I was parked in the shade and two cars parked so close to me that I couldn't open the doors on either side enough to even hope to get in! It often happens on one side so I've perfected the technique of getting into the passenger side and climbing into the driving seat. This time neither door would open more than about 15cm! After about 25 minutes (and rehearsing the French for my displeasure!) the selfish Brit arrived back. To say he got a piece of my mind was an understatement! I would have still been annoyed, but less so has the car park been full. There was lots of space, but not in the shade.

So I missed being there to welcome them, photograph the occasion and pour some cold water over them. There are other photographs...

We then moved on to Le Mont Dore and the Puy de Sancy. Taking a break from cycling we decided to have a day walking in the mountains. No mean feat given the temperatures! However, a slight breeze and the altitude meant that the temperatures were moderated somewhat, but it was still HOT.
With so many people wanting to climb to the summit and the problems of erosion, the last 500m was steep and wooden steps had been created.
The views along. The way were spectacular. I haven't been able to download from my camera yetso these were taken with my mobile phone...

The Puy de Dome in the background...

It was slightly disappointing ar the summit to be plagued by thousands of flying ants. We couldn't believe it! It meant that we couldn't  stay around too long to soak up the view.

There were loads of myrtilles sauvage. In Wales we would call these whimberries or whinberries. You could be picking all afternoon to get enough for a tart!! 

And sheep...

We also found the source of the river Dordogne. It starts off as two streams in the Massive de Sancy, the Dore and the Dogne...

They join at this point...

That's it for today. Tomorrow another mountain stage of the TdF from Le Mont Dore to Super Besse.

When I've done that there will be a wedding to tell you about...

Saturday, 13 August 2016


I’m not going to attempt to explain my absence from blogging over the past four months. We’ve been busy with a wedding, but perhaps more about that and other diversions in future posts.

Following a wonderful evening at Les Tilleuils bar in Barrou listening to Angie Palmer (a link to Jim Craig’s Loire Valley Experiences blog) perform, enjoying a lethal punch, steak frites all washed down with a nice rosé, we were up and about early for a walk around Le Petit-Pressigny.




We’d decided that if there was to be a walk today it would need to be an early one. Temperatures are set to soar over the next few days and Celine at the boucherie assures me that by Monday we can expect 34C, followed by storms on Wednesday!

Walking just after 7am the temperatures were cool and refreshing, although warmer in the sunshine. Everywhere was quiet, but even at that early hour there was a lot of activity at the fishing lake, with even a queue for the toilet!!

A few reflections along the way. For how much longer, I wonder, will we see the Union flag alongside the EU flag as we see the Tricolor outside the salle des fetes? I am desperately disappointed (to put it mildly) about how things have turned out with the referendum vote for Brexit… 






Something new has appeared in the smaller lake. Certainly not the one that got away…


A closer look…



Look closely and you will see someone lurking in the roses…


It’s days like these that make you count your lucky stars just a bit more carefully…


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Test and a blast from the past…

Long time no see, write, read or hear.

I like the sentiments expressed in this photograph I took at the Law Courts in Westminster.


As Jean pointed out in her blog Windows Live Writer is no more, and her husband, Nick, has researched Open Live Writer is an alternative. Although I’d noticed this on the forums it seemed like a faff, but to know that it works made all the difference! I instructed my IT technician (aka Tim) to sort it.

So here goes…

Sunday, 31 January 2016

R.I.P. Sir Terry...

Sadly Sir Terry Wogan passed away today. For many years I arrived at school with a smile on my face listening to his breakfast programme. 
Tears of laughter listening to his Janet and John stories turn to sadness today for the man who helped raise millions for Children in Need.

Check this out...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

R.I.P. Glenn Frey...

The wonderful music of the Eagles has been with me since the early 70’s. Together with Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell they got me through my university days, and have stayed with me ever since.

In the pace of eight days we've lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman and yesterday we lost Glenn Frey, a founding member and, together with Don Henley, a creative genius of The Eagles. So much wonderful music and lyrics that it would be easy to sit here and weave this post with one-liners from the songs which form the soundtrack to much of my life.

We saw The Eagles perform live three times. They were fantastic celebrations of their music, the harmonies they could produce live on stage on a par with anything from a studio recording.

Hotel California would be on my Desert Island Disc list, but I could choose so many other Eagles tracks. It would certainly be a close contender for my final choice. The lyrics were written by Glenn Frey. You can see a post on Hotel California here.

I’m so sad at Glenn’s passing at the age of 67 and my thoughts are with his wife, children, family and friends as they come to terms with a life without him. I'm sure they are very proud of him and all he achieved through his music. I've listened to and read tributes from many people, but this tribute from Don Henley says it all…

"He was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction. But, the bond we forged 45 years ago was never broken, even during the 14 years that the Eagles were dissolved. We were two young men who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles with the same dream: to make our mark in the music industry -- and with perseverance, a deep love of music, our alliance with other great musicians and our manager, Irving Azoff, we built something that has lasted longer than anyone could have dreamed. But, Glenn was the one who started it all. He was the spark plug, the man with the plan. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and a work ethic that wouldn't quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven. He loved is wife and kids more than anything. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief and profound sorrow. We brought our two-year 'History of the Eagles Tour' to a triumphant close at the end of July and now he is gone. I'm not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with Glenn Lewis Frey in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet. It will be very strange going forward in a world without him in it. But, I will be grateful, every day, that he was in my life. Rest in peace, my brother. You did what you set out to do, and then some."

One of the concerts opened with this song. The music lives on…

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Out with the old...

2015 was a very good year for us. We are very fortunate to have enjoyed good health, and the year has been characterised by fellowship with family and friends. It was a year in which as I tried to get to grips with retirement, Tim slipped from retirement into semi-retirement, and ended the year almost working full time. We weren’t able to spend as much time in Le Petit-Pressigny as we thought we might, but the compensation was that we were able to travel.

Time spent with family and friends has been very important. We didn’t dream that we could have made good friends in France in such a short time. If ever there is a problem someone has the answer and is prepared to help out with tools, advice or just a listening ear. Friends have also been very generous with their hospitality. Just a selection of the photographs we've taken this year of friends or their cakes!!. 

Our travels took us first to Switzerland, with our very good friends Stephen and Anne. They were at Loughborough University with Tim in the 1970’s and we have been firm friends ever since - best men, godparents to each others children, holiday companions both in summer and winter for most of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. We almost  (but not quite)  persuaded them to buy a house in Charnizay!

The weather in Switzerland was fantastic, especially if you want to ski! We had a mix of heavy snow falls and bright sunny days. I am a fair weather skier, and to ski at my best (which isn’t actually very good) require gentle slopes, perfect snow conditions and the kind of light which highlights every imperfection in the snow!! However, I feel that I come alive in the mountains.

Tim turned 60 in March. This was followed by just over a month in Japan, which was amazing. It was good to spend time with Tom and experience Japanese life. The scenery was wonderful, with so much to see. We were there in March/April for cherry blossom which was just as wonderful as the guide books show. Our favourite hotels were the traditional Japanese Ryokans.

Rhiannon went back to university to study social work, graduated in July and is now a qualified social worker. She works very hard in a demanding job, but is making a difference.

In August Tom came back from his two year stint teaching English in Japan to return to university.

Tim visited Shanghai as part of his work, but his visit coincided with a week of almost torrential rain.

Torrential rain has been very much a part of the UK weather this year. We are fortunate not to have been affected, but so many people have had their lives and homes devastated by floods, many of which could have been avoided. Our hearts go out to them as they try to restore some semblance of normality.

Christmas was lovely, and, as we look forward to 2016, I’ll quote from Rhiannon…

“ For the first time in quite a few years (so long none of us can remember when it last was!!) We've spent a magical Christmas all together as 'The Brotherhoods' in our family home, with a couple of added extras!! We have eaten, drunk, laughed, and been truly spoilt with both gifts and love. I can't think of a more fitting way to celebrate my last as Miss RhiBro. Who knows where 'The Dales' will end up in 2016; but I am so excited to find out!!”

So there we have it. So much to look forward to. For us 2016 will herald a wedding, another graduation, and my 60th birthday. However, I also hope it brings with it much happiness, good health and peace for you all.

The New Year is the time of unfolding horizons and the realisation of dreams, may you be able to enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer and face the challenges that may come your way. I hope that in 2016 we can also remember, and, do what we can, to help those people with lives that have been torn apart by conflict or natural disaster, and are needing sanctuary or a share of some of the wonderful things we take for granted.