Friday . Our last day in Cotignac

Moustiers – note the star suspended above the town
Gorges de Verdon – wow!!
Lin followed by John being greeted by a shirtless Steve

Oh dear , it’s finally here our last full day of holidays and last day staying in Cotignac. It’s been so wonderful to stay with John and Margaret and meet their lovely fun friends Lin and Andy McNaught.

We decided to head off to the Gorges of Verdon and in two cars with 3 bikes on board set off to Moustiers our first village stop about 45 mins drive away. It’s a beautiful little village with an enormous 12 point star suspended above the village.

After a wander around the village we started the climb up a winding road to look down into the gorge and it was spectacular. We reached Palud and the cyclists took off on their ride along the high road 
along the gorge and we started to drive it, stopping frequently to gasp at the view.

We met John, Lin and Andy for a picnic lunch, before they finished the downhill part of the ride and we drove back via the lake. Quite spectacular .

Steve once again stripped off his shirt to wave the riders in! Lin pretended to be a Tour rider and waved him away.

Back home for a last wander through the streets of Cotignac.

Thursday bike ride

John and Steve debriefing outside the Modern Bar 
The McNaughts, Brannocks and Maitlands relaxing on the Terrace

I’ve swam in  the Mediterranean, now I’ve cycled the Tour de France route! Well part of it.

We drove to Carces about half an hour away (John, Lin and Andy cycled all the way there!) Then we hired bikes and headed for the lake. We rode along beside the lake on a part of the road the Tour followed! So officially I have ridden the route for about 2 km.It was a gorgeous day and the lake was reflective green and still and it was so peaceful once we got onto the bike track.

We finished as all cyclists do with a cafe latte and headed back to Cotignac for lunch before a big afternoon storm hit. It rained and thundered and lightening struck and it was so good to be safe in this
beautiful house.

By 4 it was fine enough to head off to The Modern Bar (its not very modern at all but has a TV) to watch the Tour; and with John and Andy our resident cycling experts giving us guidance we were able to follow the race tactics and tried to understand what was going on. I miss the SBS coverage.

Cassis on Wednesday

Hugh and Sue McKay with us in Cassis

After listening to the end of the movie last night- lots of music echoing throughout the town from the outdoor theatre movie night, followed by children’s voices and parents chattering on their way home – I got to sleep very late. Then this morning it was all soft light and birds.

After breakfast and coffee we headed off to meet Hugh and Sue McKay in Cassis. It took about an hour and a bit………. and is a beautiful little seaside town. We overshot the exit from the freeway but it turned out just great because we were able to enter Cassis by the coast road with spectacular views. 

A quick look in the markets (similar to Cotignac) and we met on time in front of the port. A lovely lunch later and a glass or two of Rosé and all was good! Had a lovely chat and catch up and back to Cotignac as the rain storm started.

Having tea and a little bit of nougat (John’s special ) – yum!

Sent from my iPad

Sent from my iPad

Cotignac Tuesday Market Day

Early morning stirrings from the Marie woke us – gently. Sweeping, chatting, a dog barking, kids playing. Lovely village sounds. Steve’s job was to go for the fresh bread and we had an early breakfast before setting off for the markets. It’s so different in the village in summer compared to last November when I was last here. Then it was cold and quiet and though the markets were on then they were fairly small. This time they were all action. Bright colourful, full of stalls selling everything from delicious food to bright straw hats, beads, belts, scarves, clothes, flowers, tableware…… and so it went. I had my shopping bag and Margaret and I quickly went to the linen clothes stall. Some lovely things – and I bought a pair of linen pants and a white dress. Could have gone mad but held back. We got our coffee and watched the world go by while John and Margaret visited the local doctor to check on John’s injured leg. He pulled something in his leg the night of the Bastille Day pasta party – jumping up a step! This of course has made him a little crazy!

We returned to the house with provisions and packed up a picnic and headed to Tour Tour to meet up with Andy and Lin who had ridden off in 32′ heat . It’s a lovely drive there and once again quite different in summer. The villages we passed through were lively and decorated with posters advertising fairs and balls, feasts, movies, theatre and of course markets.

Tour Tour is a lovely town we visited last November and well worth visiting for a picnic under the trees at the top of the hill. We arrived just before our cyclist friends and Steve greeted them in true Tour de France fashion by taking off his shirt waving it the air and running alongside them as they came up the final hill.

We chilled out for a while before heading back to Cotignac to watch the final stages of theTour – in time to see Costa lead and manage to take the yellow jersey for the day.

Home again for rests and listening to the sounds from the Marie before enjoying a dinner out at La Clos de Van – where the chef Stefan is married to a lovely girl from Warchope near Port Macquarie! We met her the other night at the town’s pasta party. The restaurant is a few km out of the village set in a vineyard and serves the most delicious meals. We had lots of laughs concluding with a limoncello and a visit from Stefan who despite being French has a lovely Australian accent.

Home to bed but not before one more limoncello!

Sunday in Cotignac………

Hotel de Ville – our house is to the left.
Runners at the end of the race: note wine bottles!

 We left Lerici around 8.30 and made it to Cotignac in Provence around 3pm just before the village roads closed for the Bastille Day fun run and then evening celebrations. The Brannock’s house is just as lovely as I remember and we have the big guest bedroom and its fantastic. Overlooks the Place de Marie and  Hotel de Ville.
 We went straight to one of the bars to watch the Tour de France.

Around 7 we went back to the village to watch the fun runners come in and they were very sweaty looking. It was a little different to our fun runs. It ended through a narrow passage so they had to pass the wine table where every runner received a bottle of red wine. Then it was off to the food table. No oranges and water for these runners! They had coke, wine, juice, watermelon, gingerbread slices, butter cake, cherries – and of course a second glass of wine if needed. They stood around after the race patting each other on the back and toasting their success.

We then moved onto the town pasta party. We had bought our tickets to the feast and were placed on the P&F table by Suzanna who manages the Brannock’s house. On either side if us were Christina and Bents from Norway, and Maria and Arturo and their 13 year old son fom Marseilles. Both couples were delightful and we had a great night

Fun on Bastille night

The singing if the French National Anthem was stirring and the fireworks stupendous! There were no obvious safety precautions or barriers between the crowd and the fireworks .
They were just slightly out of alignment and the ones shooting left were hitting the eaves of the nearby house and it nearly caught alight!
It was all very French and we loved it.
John sprinted off the greet some others fiends arriving to stay and then we arrived home after midnight (the party was really only just starting) to find poor John on the bed with an icepack. He had strained something in his leg and was in quite a lot of pain.

Off to bed in a very comfortable bed but not before Steve had broken 3 glasses and a plate! It was an accident but don’t ask how. Hope we get invited back.

Fwd: Last day in Lerici

Dressed in pink made by Gaga Marg
Barbie doll given to Cleo by the Priest

Beautiful Demi

 Big day today as its Demi’s Christening and the ceremony starts at 10.30 in Carrara, about 40 mins away. So all up early including Caleb, Bertie’s friend from Australia. All dressed and ready, Fabio in his summer weight suit; Bertie in a lovely blue dress; and little Princess Cleo in a gorgeous dress made by Grandma Marg (otherwise know as Gaga). Baby Demi was in a pretty dress (also made by Marg) made from a fabric from a favourite shirt of Grandma Betty.

Steve and I went with Massimo and Patrizia, who live in a gorgeous house nearby. It was a “short 40 min” drive to the church.
We all assembled at the church in Carrara, and Fabio’s sister Antonella and husband Fredrico and son Dmitri arrived all smiles as they were to be the Godparents. Several other friends arrived and the Priest came out ready to start. He was also the media manager as he kept telling where the photographers (Dmitri and Massimo) should stand to get the best shots. He also gave Cleo a Barbie doll, a great surprise and something I’ve never seen in an Australian church. That kept her completely occupied.

Parents and Godparents sat up near the altar and away we went. Demi was perfect as usual, she’s a really lovely easy friendly baby. We got all the photos and then moved outside for more photos and chats.
We were moving onto to a restaurant near by – well not so nearby. We drove for nearly an hour, out of Liguria and into Lucca and up several mountains untill we arrived at La Cerratola.
It was like a mountain get away.
Lunch was delightful, beautiful traditional antipasti followed by 3 pasta dishes followed by a meat platter with 4 different types of meat and salad then the cake and gelato for dessert. Just as we were finished bad news arrived.
The whole way up Massimo and Patrizia had been a little distracted as their friend Oscar was very ill in hospital in Genoa. They then got a call saying he had passed away. There were many tears and a fairly quick end to the lunch, we moved outside and discovered Massimo and Patrizia had left and we were without a lift home. Well, in lovely italian style it took 15 mins to arrange cars, count people distribute between cars etc…… to save Steve and I being left on the hill. Eventually we went with Stempy and Veronica and their daughter Greta. Over an hour later of winding corners we arrived back in Lerici and everyone was exhausted. Gorgeous party to welcome little Demi. Thank you Fabio and Roberta.

Had a peaceful night and planned an early morning departure for Cotignac and the last week of our holidays.


Lunch time on the island
Roberta with Demi

You may remember I was in Lerici last year with my friend Pat. We had an apartment near the castle and enjoyed a week of summer fun.
Our niece Roberta (Berti) and husband Fabio live here but were away when I was her last years. This time we are staying with them. We arrived at their house to find them fresh out of the shower after an afternoon on their boat. We settled in then went shopping where Steve got to play Grandpa, pushing the stroller and looking after Cleo. We gathered a few things then went home to prepare dinner.
The two little girls (Cleo 2 and a half and Demi 3 months) are just yummy. Cleo took straight to me and I was having a lot of fun talking, reading, playing, dancing and cuddling her.
We slept in the “cave” downstairs and enjoyed a great night.
The next morning after breakfast Steve and Fabio left on the scooter and we all followed

We joined the throngs of people on boats and set off for Palmaria a small island in the Gulf de Poeti. We stopped at our own beach and went onto the blackish sand and spent some time swimming and collecting shells before heading off for lunch in a lovely casual restaurant on the island.
There was the usual mix of young old, big and small but all were brown. We had a great lunch then boarded the boat, whizzed past Portovenere towards the Cinque Terre, and stopped at the red caves for a swim
We retuned home around 6 exhausted. What a day!

Last day in Corsica -part 2

Corte was the capital and is placed in the centre surrounded by mountains, running rivers and lots of greenery. It’s very popular with walkers. All along the roads there are cars parked where the owners have scrambled down the river for a swim. If you get a look over, the river has bodies splashing and lying around on rocks.

W decided  to take the little tourist train! I know it’s very naff but we had limited time to see the sights and it came along so we jumped on. It appeared we had joined a group of bus travelling tourists and before we knew it we had driven out of the town towards a car park where a big bus was waiting! Trust us, on our first train,  to choose one that was a “special”. We had to wait for a real train to come along to get us back into the town.

Just then we heard rumbles and before long it started to rain. The first rain we’ve had over 3 weeks and 4 islands. I think in Corte it captures any rain going around.

We continued on to Bastia, where the Tour started and spent the afternoon wandering around the streets, before choosing a cafe for our aperitif and then dinner.
Back to our cave sized room and an early night for the early departure of our boat to Italy .
Off to see Bertie, Fabio, Cleo and 3 month old Demi.

Last day in Corsica

Steve with my new bag
Walking the stairs at Corte

Our last morning swim in Ill Rousse was lovely. Refreshing and alone. It was so peaceful, something the surf doesn’t give us in Australia. It crashes and threatens , mostly with sharks! It’s a very different way of swimming and playing in the water.

Breakfast at the hotel was ordinary and I always question why the French hotels charge for breakfast.
On the way out of town we stopped so I could buy a basket. We needed something we could carry our few more fragile purchases and I thought it should be something I would use. So I’m now the owner of a brightly coloured striped bag- a type of market bag. Steve looks great carrying it!

Tuesday Il Rousse

Woke to a very warm day after. A lovely dinner last night on the beach. Usually restaurants on the beachfront are a little bit of a rip off but this one had great reports on various websites so we gave it a go.
It was just lovely. We choose a table just on the edge of the decking – not the sand for us! It was a lovely night and we had such a lovely meal. The fish here is great. ……..

On the deck

relaxing dinner

This morning we went for walk and Steve found a rather steep walk down to the water for a swim. I had thongs on so was too scared to venture down . He set off and I thought he would never stop swimming. Almost disappeared! and attracted a crowd of interested spectators.

SO i left him to it and walked back towards the hotel and found a more sedate rocky cove to enter the water. It was quiet and I was the only one swimming. Its funny…..I would never do this in Australia. with sharks and rips etc. Here my greatest fear is the STINGER! by the way my face has almost recovered. Mind you the sea urchin spikes in my knee haven’t all fallen out just yet!

After breakfast we took the road behind ill Rousse and discovered the Artisans trail. It’s a little like visiting a French style Maleny. Several hill towns with people working away in their little houses – caves really. We did our bit for the economy and bought a few little things. Music boxes, folk music CD, pottery jug, and a lovely lunch with a view back towards the coast. Steve would loved to have been driving his MG but it was hair raising enough on the narrow roads for me.

Just a little squeeze. No traffic people. Just you and the digger!

One little place Pigna has at least 10 craft “shops” to visit.     Perfect!

Music boxes from Pigna

We drove back to town and headed for the hotel. After a little rest time ( we are getting used to siesta) i decided another swim would be good and I took off to people watch on the long sandy beach .
the lifesaver was walking up and down the busy beach carrying large fins. I guess if someone got into trouble he could don the fins and swim to them faster.

I wandered back and we prepared for our aperitif . I have developed a slight addiction to strawberry mojitos! The strange girl at our hotel bar came with it and after a few sips I decided it was sans alcohol ! I went in and said it wasn’t very good (not like the night before) and so her friend took many slurps and said “its ok! ” and handed it back. At this stage I almost laughed out loud and said I’d like a fresh one. I got it and I really hope she didn’t spit in it!. AND it was definitely with alcohol the second time.

Dinner tonight was at a place highly recommended and the fish was so fresh it was jumping. We had the choice of fresh fish  – escorted to our table by the owner and we found it hard to choose. The cute pink one? the slightly shy looking pale grey one? the sturdy looking one with multiple fins or the grand one for two!

What a fish. Delicious. with a beautiful caper sauce.

And so to bed………

Me enjoying the fresh fish…..and the wine