Last day : Lodi to San Francisco

Poppy has a sleep over last night so Jordan took her for a walk to get our coffee ! Great start to the last day.

Lisa went to work a little bit later to make the most of Poppy time and to farewell me.

Right on 10am John , Jordan and I set off for San Francisco. It’s a beautiful warm, blue day and they are taking me all the way to San Francisco. About 1.5 hrs with some great signs along the way.

It was an interesting drive past vineyards and into the delta area where we sang the song ‘ drove my chevi to the levy but the levy was dry ‘

There are a number of levy here which cater for the farms in the area. Many crops are grown here.

I could sing my way around America!

‘Are you going to San Francisco….’

‘Do you know the way to San Jose….’

Visiting any area of America produces the opportunity to sing about it!

We arrived via the rather beautiful Bay Bridge. It was replaced after an earthquake brought down part of the old bridge.

It has a great approach and is a rather lovely structure.

We arrived into SF and drove along the Embarcadero………

past all the rejuvenated piers until we reached pier 39.

We parked the car and walked out on pier to Scomos. It’s an old restaurant – like bring on a ship. I had a great shrimp salad. And a glass of Rose!

Last time I’ll see Jordan before baby M arrives!

The day was perfect so we walked along the water. I admired the people swimming! It would be just a little chilly!

Then John took me on a tour. Of course the famous zig zag Lombard St featured.

The views down Lombard St.

We arrived at Grove St at a rather small hotel, one block from the painted ladies of Alamo Park. John and Jordan helped me in and then it was goodbye. Next time I see my daughter in law will be with a baby in her arms.

As the weather was so lovely I headed straight out. Up the hill to Alamo Park and the infamous Painted Ladies. SF style houses painted different colours.

My hotel is just down the street to the left.

I then walked …… and walked……. past some great houses.

Past public buildings

City Hall
Love the circular rooms
Opera & Ballet Theatre
Great street art.

Until I had passed numerous homeless people to reach Union Square where I had stayed years ago.

By now I was quite exhausted so had a cup of tea! Watched the passing parade and caught an Uber back to the Grove Inn.

I refreshed in my little room and went to the Alamo Square Seafood Grill. What a find. It was a little FRENCH ! place and I had the best fish fish! Grilled blackened snapper with delicious veg. And a glass of Chardonnay.

Is there such a thing as too many Oysters! In Maine!

We headed off from our Portland hotel and walked the cobbled streets. It’s an up and coming tourist destination (perhaps it’s already arrived!) and the township near the port is filled with fun shops, bars and restaurants.

We followed the suggestion of the hotel receptionist and went to J’s oyster bar.

it’s a modest place but packed with atmosphere. We tried two types of local oysters. A salty and a sweet. Both delicious but the sweeter one won.

Washed down with a Prosecco for me and a Guiness for Steve it was a winner. After a big breakfast we had skipped lunch so we’re ready to eat.

We left J’s and walked along the sea front

Then headed to Oyster Bar #2 called Eventide. Back a few streets it was just superb. Right on trend I’d say!!!

Cool guys working there but very friendly, we sat at the bar and ordered 6 different Maine oysters each. They came with a choice of sauces. I chose horseradish ice and Steve had lemon pepper ice.

We worked our way through the menu. We definitely had our favourites.

But all were delicious. Again washed down with Prosecco and beer(s)!

The rock on the bar was set up for oysters and the guy shucking them was a machine.

After some time there we walked a little, went to the hotel to regroup then went to Scales for our last plate!

What a great place.

We just had to try local lobster. We ended up slightly messy but it was worth it. And so was the Santa Barbara Pinot Grigio.

Slightly messy plate. Well worth it.

Portland is a foody paradise.

Wedding Eve

A girl from California, Jordan, meets a boys from Brisbane, Rob, on a beach in Barcelona. They have many friends from around the world.

Today they started to arrive and gathered for a beach fiesta. No quiet pre wedding dinner. No, it was a pre wedding party in a stunning location. Chilly yes, but layers were added and tequilas were drunk.

Friends from Spain, Belgium, England, New York , Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Old school friends , family, waterpolo friends , cousins, aunties ……..

The taco man backed his truck in and fed us all. The drinks flowed and so did the laughter.

A great start to the party.

Tomorrow is the big day.

Last Day in the Village. 

Woke late to the sounds in the Mairie outside my window. Today was spring cleaning day in the Place.

The Council were having their meeting today at 11 and there was action in the space in front. This happens to be the space in front of the Brannock’ s house.

There were sweepers sweeping and waterers watering and Policemen coming and going from the Council Offices in the Mairie.

I took the opportunity to put my head inside this Council  building that always seems so closed up. It was rather lovely.


Staircase inside the Council’s Mairie building.

Susanna, the fun lady who manages the Brannocks house for the group of owners, happens to be on the council, so had asked could she call in for a chat before the meeting.

Margaret and I went for coffee beforehand at the lovely cafe opposite. It’s such a special little place and holds special memories as I’ve eaten there each visit I’ve had and love the little outdoor terrace.

It’s the cafe behind the flags!

I wanted to wander the streets of the village one last ( well almost last) time.

I saw so many things this morning , afternoon and evening. You would love it.

We walked down past Bar Marigny and  saw the crowd that hang out there. They nodded. Or called Bojour as  we we passed by.  We went to a little shop at the end  of town near the Happy Tree – which has the cutest felt stars hanging in it.

More stalls appeared. Different every evening.

The little boutique has lot of clothes and there was  a mother with three daughters trying things on and looking great in everything. There are quite a few Norwegians and Swedish staying in the area. In fact someone commented that they are ‘very big and take up lots of space in the cafes in their big groups  with lots  of children!’

Margaret and I descended to the cave below with its cushions,  lamps,, bolts of fabric,  glassware, beads and a cupboard of clothes, Tout –  50%.  That sounded good. So after much wriggling in the little dressing room I bought a lovely mustard  linen top.

Back out side we walked along the Grand Rue,  past Mirabeau where I bought some wine to thank John  and Margaret for  having me and to wish them a happy joint70. They have friends arriving in Sept for a cruise then a stay in Cotignac to celebrate.

Then it was a general wander and observation of the locals and the tourists. This village is beautiful and it’s becoming a little seasonal with the tourists. It’s a shame for the locals if they find the work so seasonal they have to move away in winter.

We sat in a  cafe by the four seasons fountain and watched a drama  unfold.

A young woman driving a small car suddenly stopped and jumped out. Her large dong sitting on the front seat saw a likely playmate. Another big dog. So he leapt out of the window.

She left the car,  with about 5 people waiting patiently behind  her and took off after the dog. He was in dog heaven. Now he had two playmates. He chased the dog and she chased him. There were calls from the crowds , waves from all,   until a young man grabbed her dog. She carried him back to her car – now really blocking the narrow street and dumped him in the front seat. She hurried around to the drivers side to calls of ‘ wind your window up!’ She did, she waved and drove off with the dog looking out from his view on the front seat. Drama over.


Sitting by the 4 seasons fountain

We saw tables being put along on the road then realised the road was to be closed. There must be a party tonight. We’ll have to come back.

After siesta we moved our aperitif hour to outside the house. It’s a great spot to watch the world go by or to catch up with neighbours as we did.


NEGHBOURS,, English couple Peter and Lyn

We just had to go back to the Grand Rue later that evening to check out the events. And there  they were,  dancing in the streets. There was a disc jockey spinning lots of favourites and the dances moved from line dancing to waltzing to swing to modern bopping and the old favourite YMCA. Young, old, big and small. All together. It was such a festive occasion.

Even the gorgeous dark haired girl from the cafe – with the  amazing smile , got up and danced with her mum between serving drinks.

It gave a taste of summer in a village. It was great fun.

Try and get here I can promise you’d love it.

What makes a Village French?

Leisurely exploring the countryside is a treat especially when you have a driver who is

1. A friend 2.Patient 3. Knowledgable !

My driver Margaret is all 3!


Driver Margaret stops at the prettiest place to fill up the tank!

Yesterday we explored east of Cotignac finishing at Le Thoronet Abbey near the village of the same name.

But before  Le Thoronet we drove through lovely French landscapes. Around each corner is another beautiful scene. There are vineyards, pale ochre coloured houses, dressed with blue shuttered, pencil pines, tractors and hill top towns – that’s if you can stop looking along the curving,  narrow roads hoping nothing will come round them!

The views are restful and inspiring at the same time. I feel all creative, like I want to become an artist or writer to capture it all.

We passed through Entrecasteaux with its little one way street with lights telling you wait before proceeding through the town,  around the corner and coming across the beautiful big Chateaux.

Then past the little Saint Antonin Du Var , it’s name almost bigger than itself.

Onto Lorgues. We stopped here in this small fortified village – town with its ‘portes’ , ancients stairs, vaulted passages, St Martins church and pretty one way Grand Rue lined with cafes. Coffee creme and a sit in the shade of the lime green umbrella was all we needed.

Past another lovely small village. I blinked and missed its name and its not on the map. But it had a very nice stone bridge over a lovely creek.

Finally to Thoronet and the Abbey on the outskirts of town, beside a small river. A group of monks settled here and in  1170 started work on this abbey. Less than 2 centuries later it had fallen into decline until restoration started in 1841 and continues today.

The large church is big with a vaulted ceiling and its sparse lack of any decoration highlights it’s beautiful shape. The acoustics must be wonderful. They regularly have concerts here and it would be beautiful.

We drove back to Cotignac through Carces, a favourite village visited last time we were here. There are wonderful murals painted on the walls and many little tiles used on the pointed roofs of the old village Churches and buildings.

Back home Margaret and John had a French lesson with Lauren so I went for a walk through the village stopping for a cool drink by the four seasons fountain. It’s a gorgeous fountain and is often used by little and not so little children to splash away the heat of the day.

It’s easy to relax into life in these French Villages. Especially at Rose time. I’ve already mentioned that they drink it like cordial. Perhaps the English describe it well when they say they come to Provence and have to be careful not have ‘death by Rose!’

We visited Mirabeau,  a winery started by Stephen and Jeany Cronk.  Watch this short Video for mirabeau wines.

If this link doesn’t work just google it and it comes as a short you tube


Lizzie, the lovely Irish girl working at Mirabeau

From wine tasting  we went to dinner.


I had a beautiful duck with fig sauce

But still the night continued –  onto the terrace at the top of the Brannocks house. We soaked up:  both the wine from Carpe Diem,  another very good local winery and the sounds of the Opera singing at the out door theatre just behind the clock tower.


View from the terrace up 5 flights to the top!

At midnight I lay in bed listening the people walking through the Marie in front of the house on the way home from the concert.

What adventures are in store tomorrow?  Keep reading friends.

Lecce you are Lovely

Today is Friday and we are feeling sad about the terrible tragedy in Nice. Travel is wonderful but these days there is an element of danger. But we won’t let it stop us.

So today we met our guide for the day. Lovely Simona. I found her website and booked a three hour tour. It’s great going with a local and as it turned out she lives around the corner from our apartment.IMG_2019

We set off and she began to tell us about life in Lecce both now and in the past. She is a born and bred local,  though her partner Tim, she described as more English than the Queen !

We walked and she pointed out the features on the buildings. This was a wealthy area in days gone by due  to production of wine, olives  and tobacco.  There are a number of large Palazzo, now either privately owned or broken into apartments. In this way it’s like the very lovely areas of Rome.

We looked at the markings above the doors, the churches, Cathedral and Basillica. They all have a story.

The really interesting thing about Lecce is the use of  Cartapesta or paper mâché as as an art form. Used to make statues,  it is particular to this area. It’s used in Venice for making masks but here it’s in the churches. You can hardly tell the difference between the statues made from Paper mâché , wood and stone. Such craftsmen.

We visited one shop in a quiet area behind the Cathedral and had a nice talk with the owner.  A lovely lady named Stefania. Ginetta – you and Em would love this work. Her more modern work is also amazing. She had made a bustier you would love and a dress. And a mermaid!

We looked at the altars of different style – Baroque and Renaissance.



Such beauty in one place.

We had to stop for a refreshment. A coffee over ice with a dash of almond milk to make it sweet. Delicious. It’s called ‘Cafe in Ghiaccio con latte Di Mandorle’.

More walking and talking and noticing things we would otherwise have missed – including the drain cover marked with the city symbol of the she-wolf and the oak tree; and the fascist symbol from the 1930’s.

Significant symbols everywhere.

We retreated to our apartment for a piccolo siesta and to catch up with the Tour de France

Then it was time for our passeggiata. We walked, we shopped, we had a glass of wine and we watched others doing the same.


Dinner was at Osteria 203 recommended by Simona. It was a beautiful meal with a gorgeous bottle of local red. To make it more special we watched a parade go past our restaurant. It was to take St Carmine back to her church. Accompanied by a band. Steve thought the band almost unique – not because of the typical Italian playing con gusto and slightly off key – but of the 40 or so members, no three of them were in step even with each other!



After dinner walked some more and visited another lovely shrine  – the most popular Gelateria named Natale. What a place.


Buona notte my friends

Please leave a comment about something you love when you travel



St Emilion

After arriving back in St Emilion we took a tour of the underground church. It brought to life the story of St Emilion, a monk with a vision. He gathered a few thousand workmen and dug an underground cavernous monolithic church apparently modelled on  one he saw in Cappadoccia. This was when he wasn’t meditating in his small Chapel where he lived in solitude for several years. I love these stories. It’s amazing what one shy monk can do. 


the undergound Church of St Emilion

The hour long tour keep us cool and the history lesson was great as well. All English speakers and it’s funny how you can identify other Australians in a group. The older ones all have a “Chips Rafferty” look of weathered skin and dry humour and the younger ones look like they would rather be back on the beach in Biarritz. The English are easy to see in their socks and sandals, and the Americans…….. Well we didn’t have any on tour , so I don’t have to be careful about what I say  John Donati!  


I know I’m not in Italy but i couldn’t resist!

Following that tour we visited our bar with the fan misters for a quick beer then headed off for an hour in the vineyards. The area is very pretty with vines growing in neat even rows with large chateaux sitting in the middle of the vineyards making everything look like a fairytale. Even the Chanel family own a property here. One of the owners came over to our group ( not Mr Chanel I would have recognised the loafers) and on hearing we were from Australia said ” very good Shiraz from there” We felt quite patriotic! 


Looking back across rhe vineyards towards St Emilion.


Neat even rows.