Thursday, 30 October 2008

la photo du jour

Looking down through the central plaza square of Sarlat towards the  cathedral of Saint-Sacerdos.

Sarlat-la-Canéda, or simply Sarlat is a large town just to the north of the Dordogne river.

Click on the photo on left to see location


Click here to see it in our adventure map.

Sarlat is the tourist mecca of the Dordogne and we were advised by all our friends to stay well clear during the months of July and August.

The centre of the town is incredibly well preserved and is a veritable rabbit warren of medieval architecture. 

The french government has it on their tentative list for a future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There are almost no vehicle traffic permitted within the old wall boundary of the city (on the streets that are wide enough).

French Facts: The French Fifth Republic

I have offered wondered about the orgin of this term.  I was aware that France had established its first republic around the same time that they invented the guillotine and then ol' Napoléon went on and declared himself emperor but how did they get from one to five.  I was curious.. time to consult wikipedia.
First Republic
1792 - 1804
France established a republic after the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution in 1789.
This lasted only 15 years until Napoléon seized control making himself First Consul (1799) and later Emperor.
Second Republic 1848 - 1852
After Napoléon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the French monarchy was re-established.
In 1830, a civil uprising led to a constitutional Monarchy but a further uprising in 1848 saw the creation of the 2nd Republic.
This republic lasted only 4 years until 1852 when Napoléon's son Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaimed the Second Empire.
Third Republic
1870 - 1940
Louis-Napoléon was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic.
Through its seventy-year history, the Third Republic stumbled from crisis to crisis.  It officially ended on July 10, 1940 after the invasion of Hitler's army and was replaced by the regime of Vichy ("the French state").
Fourth Republic
1946 - 1958
The Fourth Republic was established after World War II, however in these times France struggled to maintain its hold of its colonial empire and suffered defeat in French Indochina and Algeria.
Fifth Republic
1958 -
The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by referendum on 28 September 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to parliament.
The executive branch itself has two leaders: the President of the Republic, who is Head of State and is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term (formerly 7 years), and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister.

Best Buy

We stumbled across this property last week on one of our off-road runs. I sound a little puffed on the video while Ange sounds well rested - how does that work?

Back to the property - I don't suppose this small video does it much justice, you had to be there. Anyway its on the blog and easily accessible for viewing on all those raining days when we get back to Auckland.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Château de Montfort

These days the Château de Montfort is closed to the public.

The castle has an interesting history. It was built in the XI century but razed to the ground by Simon de Montfort in 1214. The castle was later rebuilt but was destroyed another three times: during the Hundred Years' War and then again on the instructions of Henri IV.

Much of the current configuration looks like XVII or XVIII century to me. It would have been great to get inside the walls but alias we were limited to a walk around the perimeter - or were we?

Check out our video for more details.

Tuesday Tune-Up

FancyAswimMore Autumn Ready4Football

Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • I have discovered a tiny scratch on the lens of my camera. It must have happened when we visited the sand dunes at Dune du Pyla.  I had noticed a smudge or blur  on some of my photo's and went looking for the cause.  No way to fix it so maybe its time to upgrade to a digital SLR - any suggestions?
  • It was a good trip to the caves yesterday. There were dozens of smaller caves and openings all along the route, some of these looked very explorable.. I think a return visit might be in order.
  • We stumbled across the small Chapelle Saint-Roch, which was perched high on a rocky outcrop above the river and road.  I climbed further up the hill to take this picture.
  • This afternoon we have posted our voting papers off to the NZ Embassy in Paris: that is one more thing to tick off the list.  The selection of parties and candidates this year look about as inviting as this old waterhole on the left.
  • Our end of year plans are now almost finalised.
    • Leave the Dordogne on the 29th November travelling up to Normandy for 6 nights. 
    • After that we have rented an apartment in Paris for the final week of our French adventure.
    • We then fly out to Dubai on the 12th December to spend a few days with friends Denise and Jeremy. 
    • Arrive back in Auckland on 19th and plan to spend Christmas & New Year with Ange's mum in Timaru.
    • We get back to Auckland and move back home on the 5th January 2009. 
  • So some exciting times ahead.. but there is a lot to get done before we leave.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Prehistory Cave Adventure

Some 25,000 years or more ago early man settled in a cave in the upper valleys of the river Lot not far from the present day village of Cabrerets.  Successive generations settled in this cave, leaving behind not only valuable archeological evidence but also some magnificent cave paintings (and plenty of cave wall graffitti).

The cave was re-discovered in 1922, named 'la grotte du Pech Merle' and boasts some of the best examples of cave drawings that you can still visit  (the more famous caves of Lascaux have been closed to protect the paintings and you can now only visit a replica - Lascaux II).        Click here to see the location on our Adventure Map.


Did I mention that it was school holidays again in France?  The last eight school weeks have flown past and the kids get the next 11 days off school.  Except they still have NZ school on 'Home School Wednesday' - although I've haven't told them this yet.

Monday = first day of the holidays = family adventure.

It was a good day to visit a cave, it was raining and the temperature never really climbed above 12ºC. It wasn't beach weather!

We even had McDonalds for lunch. Yes, I know!! I totally buckled under the pressure, even despite my pledge that our Mac days were over.  It was just too damn convenient to pass up.  It was an hour and half road trip to Cabrerets and we hit the 'MacDonalds' round-about in Cahors right on 12 noon.

There was no photography allowed inside the cave so you have to excuse the borrowed pictures from the official web site.

image   An "exciting" photo, showing a calcified footprint of an adolescent boy circa 10,000 years ago. Yes - its a boy - can't you tell the difference?

In my view this was the best example of painting in this cave but unfortunately this is also the worse example of photography.

It shows part of a bison (left) and a dotted horse. The painting of the horse was radiocarbon dated to 25,000 years old.  On the back of the horse, not really visible in this photo was a large red fish, thought to be a pike.

Stenciled black hands are found all around the horses.


At one stage in the hour long tour, Henry wandered off from the group and practiced some scribbles of his own. No - only joking (I was holding his hand very firmly).

This shows another ancient horse, could this have been a practice sketch for the painting above?

Monday, 27 October 2008

French Facts: Paris Metropolitain



Paris has the most closely spaced subway stations in the world, with 245 stations within the 41 square kilometres (16 sq mi) City of Paris. Supposedly you are never more than 400 meters from a subway station.

Paris is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow. It carries 4.5 million passengers a day. Châtelet Les Halles is the world's largest underground station.

During construction of the new driverless line 14 in 1990, several canoe-shaped boats were found ten meters below the banks of the Seine river. The boats date back to 2800-2500 BC, making them among the earliest signs of human settlement in the area. They are now housed in the Carnavalet museum.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Home School Wednesday

SchoolWednesday Jack has been on at me this week to publish this poster (to show his grandma and nana). This was his mini-project on Wednesday (writing practice).
It wasn't that easy to scan and I had to cut and paste bits around.... sorry Jack. Yes I know. Sorry! What if I take a picture of you with the original as well. The smile has it.

la photo du jour


The small hamlet of Bigaroque.

I find there is something magical about small hamlets like this one - they just fascinate me. 

Bigaroque sits on the curve of the Dordogne river on the opposite bank to the town of Le Buisson.

I took this picture in June, it would look quite different now in Autumn.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

No Compass Required

We didn't get lost today but it was a close thing. Lets just say the route wasn't very well signposted. Lots of Fun!

AnotherNicePair Ruins Suckinthetummy Village

Friday, 24 October 2008

Off Road

Ange and I went for a late morning off-road run from Blanquefort-sur-Briolance.  I suggested we run the track in reverse (there must have been a good reason?) but we ended up losing the track. As a result our 10km run turned into a 4km.. neither of us were complaining. We plan to go back tomorrow and do it again.  It was really beautiful, the track was quite steep but had great views.

WhatSortofRunningPoiseIsThat Blanquefort-sur-Briolance GoodSign oldBridge

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Election Time

I have just download my voting papers for my overseas vote. Might even win tickets to some rugby games in November.

Possibly one of the best things about France is the absence of New Zealand TV: Yes, no depressing and boring news about juvenile politicians ranting on and on about petty issues. 

The good news is that we will have missed the entire 2008 year of electioneering and Onewa road construction project to boot.  Bad news we can't afford to do this every three years.

Damn - there is no tick box for "none of the above"



Tuesday Tune-Up

Colors of AutumnOurHouseLastSwim2  

Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • Colours of autumn are really showing.. I have been gathering photo's for an autumn post but at this rate it will be ready by December.
  • Ange and I are still trying to finalise all our plans for the end of the year.  It has been frustrating work and we have set a goal to have a fixed plan in place by Friday. 
  • Toulouse marathon this weekend?  All registered but nowhere near enough preparation. I went for a long training run and it just didn't feel right, maybe another time. Might still change my mind.
  • The pool temperature is hovering around 18ºC and it is still getting occasional use, albeit with wetsuits for some.  This will be our last few weeks of swimming and the pool will be sorely missed when we get back to NZ.
  • Check out this foxy dude crossing the road in front of us.  It would have been better to snap him when he was in the middle of the road but I had to stop and get the camera out.. excuses.
    He seemed in a real hurry to visit the chicken coop at the bottom of the road/ hill.
  • I have started experimenting today with my "Soupe à l'oignon gratinée". The result was well received but much more practice will be required over our remaining 8.28 weeks in France.
  • Last but not least, a shot of Briggs and Stratton surveying all their hard work.  

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

French Facts: Operation Overlord & The Invasion of Normandy


D-Day of WWII is the largest amphibious assault ever conducted, nearly 160,000 troops crossed the channel on June 6th, 1944 and more than 3 million troops where landed by the end of August.

Once the beachheads were secured, a three-week military buildup occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months and concluded with the close of the Falaise pocket, the subsequent liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944.

No prizes for guessing where we are going when we leave Dordogne on 30th November!

Another School Lunch Menu

School lunch menu for the week. The menu from Le Got is absent from the younger boys school bags. Jack's menu will have to do for this post  but it is always more interesting (as it is for older children). Chicken nuggets today!
handwriting JACksCHOOL
At school our boys have been leaning cursive or "ecriture" writing as opposed to the block or "batton" writing the kids are taught in NZ. Not sure how helpful this has been for Jack and Henry but James has been flourishing in this environment... he loves school and really enjoys showing off for mum and dad. This is his doodle of his name from dinner time. 
And to help fill the empty space I've included a smiley photo of Jack after I picked him up from school the other day.

Monday, 20 October 2008

20th Festival of Chestnuts and of Cèpe Mushrooms

Big weekend in Villefranche this weekend as it hosts the Autumn festival of mushrooms and chestnuts. Villefranche is not as lively as its cousin Monpaizer just down the road, but this weekend it has its moment in the sun.

There was no parking anywhere in town today, we had to park down by the lake. There was even a truck towing cars which had parked alongside the main road.. what is rural life coming too!!



Bastide square in the centre of town
One of the stalls along main street in town

A video walk-around of the festival

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Cool Buggy

Another vid from the car show showing off a really cool off-road buggy.

Not sure I could fit the whole family in one but Jack and I decided that this would be a good choice for the next family car.

Goodbye Jardin

IMG_2404 IMG_2399

We are down to the last two potato stalks and half a row of carrots.  All the locals have said it was a terrible year for the garden, not nearly warm enough.  We found the heat "just right" if not unpleasant at night when trying to get to sleep, so any more whilst good for the veggies would have been too much for us.


The fig tree is in full fruit with more than enough for us, les chien and les mouton.  Not kidding the dogs would have each eaten about 20 figs that fell from the tree as we were picking ours.  And after we had left the paddock the sheep came to see what all the fuss was about.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Last of the Summer Wine....


Quite literally we are down to our last bottle of Rose.  This is the choice of drink in the Summer months as it's cool and fruity a perfect complement to warm barmy days. We managed to get through a few rose's while our last visitors were here under the guise of having to finish before autumn arrives.   I bought a dozen of the bottle pictured, Chateau de Planques from the Bergerac region.  I have managed well rationing them out between other varieties.  Now I am down to the last bottle and I am awaiting a special meal to enjoy this wine with. 

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Competition Prizes


In case you missed this the winners were: Sean, Amy & Gary.

Here are the prizes direct from Paris.  I choose T-shirts because they are easy and light to post - I hope you like them. 

Amy your T features the famous poster for the "Chat Noir" cabaret in the bohemian Montmartre district. 

Sean and Gary, I assume you can spot the fact these t-shirts are not for you but rather your kids, because it's all about the kids.  I deliberately opted for larger sizes: size four for the twins and size two for baby Liam. The available designs improved greatly with the larger sizes and anyway our experience shows that larger sizes have a much longer life span.

Thanks for entering and supporting the blog.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Tuesday Tune-up

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Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • Jack and I obviously made it back from Paris, it was a great weekend but it is also good to be home.
  • Speaking of which... Our time in France is running out fast, we only have two months left. It is a real quandary as we strive to do as much as we can in the time remaining while the work effort required to organise and wrap-up this adventure is mounting fast.
  • Ange and I are trying to visit all the little towns in the wider area that have to date skipped our attention.  Today we visited Prayssac and Puy l'Evêque, two towns on the River Lot.
  • We stopped for lunch at Puy l'Evêque, the main course was kangaroo with tagliatelle pasta. It was very tasty but not as interesting as the owner and a few of the patrons, who on discovering that we were from Nouvelle-Zélande had us cornered at the bar for a good hour, chatting away in french (our french is not that good remember).  It was one of those memorable moments and Ange took this picture of the owner in front of the restaurant.
  • Sounds from France .. This song has been playing almost non-stop on the radio all summer.  Ange and I are addicts. It is one of those catchy tunes.. you have been warned.

    William Baldé, "Un rayon de Soleil"

  • Ok, now I'm listening to this song, this is not helping the production of this post.  No worries.. Hey Babe take a walk on the wild side.. Unnnn rayon.....   no women no cry......Ahhh
  • Can't work in these conditions.. Don signing out.