A Busy Time in Port

We have been very busy while we have been in Port Macquarie.  The weather has been terrific, sunny with not a lot of wind, temperatures in the high teens or low 20s.

Last Saturday we did a more comprehensive shop to stock the fridge and cupboard for our week here, and went on to a local market which was interesting.  There was also a good playground for the girls to have some fun.

After lunch we went for a walk to the beach.  We didn’t actually mean to go for a swim so the girls were wearing clothes, not swimming costumes.  The tide was coming in and being a shallow beach, the waves while small, came in very quickly.

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The girls were soaked in no time.

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They had good fun there, but then it was back to the apartment for showers and some washing.

On Sunday we drove down to Laurieton for a look along the coast and some of the beaches, and another market, then up to the Middle Brother Mountain lookout, high up above Laurieton.

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After a good look around and a bush walk with the girls, it was back to the resort for a swim in the pool, heated to a comfortable 28°.  The girls had a great time, but Ella must have had some water still in her ear as she woke up after midnight with an earache and so we had a visit to the hospital about 2am to get some help to see just what was the problem.

The nurse gave her some medicine and a doctor checked her out closely and said that she may have had a slight infection but may have just been a bit of water pressure internally.  The next day we bought some medicine so that we could be prepared for any recurrence, but it proved not to be needed as Ella has been fine since.

The girls have had several craft sessions through the week, all hosted by local operators for the school holidays.

Lily coloured in a very well decorated Koala and did a good job of it too.

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Ella did a scratching of a spacemen which was very elaborate.

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They both made collages of a variety of artwork that they created, mounted on card that they had printed earlier.

One day, we all went to a Koala Hospital which has saved a lot of Koalas over the years.

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As Koalas sleep 18 to 20 hours a day when they are well, there wasn’t a lot of action but it was very interesting.

Port Macquarie is one of the older settlements in Australia, first established as a penal colony in 1820, and it’s proud of its history.  There are several museums in and around the town and many older buildings open to visit.

We visited Roto House which is a restored timber house built about 130 years ago by the Flynn family as their home.

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The house is large, 11 rooms and none of them are the kitchen, bathrooms or laundry, apparently these were originally external to the main house and were not restored.

Another day we visited the Port Macquarie Courthouse, 160 years old, and not used as such these days.

Judge Lily was in session.

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Judge Lily sentenced Poppy to not having any of the chocolate coated strawberries for dessert.

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‘Twas a harsh sentence indeed.

The girls were able to dress in period costume which was fun.

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We played mini golf another day, sorry no pics.

There is a trail of Koala sculptures around Port, 58 of them in total.  The Tourist Office has printed an information sheet to help kids seek them all out and we have been on the trail.

They are decorated by local artists and are very colourful.

Here is Garage Girl, outside the Courthouse.

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The Cyclist was another in the town.

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Oceania was out by the Pacific Highway.

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In all, we did visit 25 of these colourful Koalas.

Today we visited the Bago Maze near the winery of the same name at Wauchope, the largest maze in NSW.

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An interesting maze and a  new experience for Ella and Lily, we navigated our way through the maze to the 2 towers and out again, but we found most of the hidden items along the way.

Here are the tubular chimes that played interesting tunes.

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This hatching dinosaur was cute.

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The maze conquered, Ella and Lily had to have a roll down the steep hill.

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They set a trend, before long all the kids outside the maze were doing it.

We went for another swim in the resort pool this afternoon, but it was closed for maintenance unfortunately.  The girls still had a splash in the kiddies pool.

Now we are packing up, back to Mick’s tomorrow, It’s been fun, but the girls are back to school next week.

 

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On the Road Again

We had a good but hectic visit home for about 1 month, catching up with family but not many of our friends unfortunately.  We were finding it quite cold in Melbourne in the throes of winter and had a date further north to holiday with Grand Daughters Ella and Lily during their school holidays.

So Wednesday last week we drove up to Roger’s son Mick’s place in Wollongong, an easy 850kms.

On Thursday we had a look around Wollongong’s beaches on a beautiful day.  This is looking north from the lighthouse.

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A catamaran in the centre was moored very close to the beach and there was somebody in the water moving it around manually.  The tide was going out so maybe they were trying to beach the boat for maintenance?

They were protected from the surf by a headland and a substantial breakwater.

We noticed this dad and his 2 kids with a death wish wandering around on the rocks at the end of the headland.  He was carrying the smaller child on his shoulders climbing up and down rocky outcrops, wouldn’t want to do this on a day with decent surf as they could all be swept away very quickly.  Anyway they made it back to safety on this day.

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Looking south towards the Port Kembla Steelworks, with Wollongong’s City Beach in the foreground.

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Thursday evening we all went up to Sydney to have dinner with Nadine and the girls, it was lovely to see them all again.  We took Ella and Lily back to Mick’s for the start of our adventure.

We had booked an apartment at Port Macquarie, another 500 kms, about half way to Queensland for the holiday, and set off early last Friday morning.

Lily especially enjoyed the drive.

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We arrived in too good time at the Port Pacific Resort, looking more like an ocean liner than a resort.

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However being early  we had time to kill before we could move in.

There was a playground and pools in the resort which we checked out.

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Next we went down to the river for a walk and found the river wall which has accumulated a lot of personal messages through the years.  It reminded us of the Vee Wall at Nambucca Heads further north, it’s very similar.

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After that our room was ready so we moved in, did a bit of shopping for our immediate needs and settled down to a beautiful sunset from our balcony, looking across the river.

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The apartment, a Timeshare exchange property, is very comfortable and well equipped.  It should be a good week.

We’re Home Again

Wednesday we were up early for our drive down to London Heathrow Airport and our flight home.

Phillip the Pheasant helped us pack the car.

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Then we wished Marion, Jonathon and Tom a fond farewell, and we were on the road again.

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Keep left still Roger!

You can never predict what holdups will happen, with the combination of heavy traffic, breakdowns, roadworks etc. a 2 hour drive can take 3 or 4 and we had a deadline.

As it turned out, we had a phenomenal drive.  Our GPS said it would take 2 hours and it actually took 5 minutes less.  No holdups or congestion at all.

We saw these enterprising Aussies along the way.

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We’re not sure that they ever get asked to  move Great White Sharks, Red Back Spiders or Ming Vases, but they claim that they can do them.

And so we arrived at Heathrow safely, a bit early if  anything.

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We checked in our car and transferred to the terminal building, with all our bags with all our UK goods to transport home.  We had over 80 KGs of checked luggage in 4 cases plus our 2 carry on cases.  Luckily we had a generous allowance of 104KGs between us so no excess charges, just a few comments about the obvious bulk of it all.

We boarded our plane on time and it was very comfy in the Premium Economy compartment.  It would need to be for a 17 hour nonstop flight to Perth.

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There are a couple of things that we still prefer about the 380s but the fitout of this 787 was fine.  The large overhead lockers and large TV screens were especially good.  Heather missed her side compartment the 380 has for storage of blankets & pillows etc. when not in use.

The windows on the Dreamliner are very large and have no pull down shades to block out the light from outside.  Instead they have electronic filters that dim the light if necessary.

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When you press a button on the wall, an electronic charge changes the opacity of a sandwiched gel layer inside the window, to allow more or less light in as required.  The crew have a master control and can do all the windows at one time and passengers can adjust theirs’ to their own preference.

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Soon we were away and leaving the airport behind.

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Then we were saying goodbye to the UK for this year.

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The flight was uneventful.  The service and food was good and we had plenty of entertainment to choose from.  We both had some sleep along the way, then after 17 hours we were arriving in Perth.

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Then touching down in Perth, still on time, after the 17 hours, around 1pm on Thursday afternoon.

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After a short refuelling stop, we were aboard again for the 4 hour flight to Melbourne, arriving on time just after 8pm.  Then into a taxi with a very friendly Sudanese driver and home again safely.

Annette had visited during the day to turn on our central heating and electric blankets and some food to get us started, so after a bit of unpacking, we settled down to some more sleep.  Thanks Annette.  All’s good.

 

PS – Adrian and his family arrived in London as we left and they are there for a week, catching up with friends and seeing some of their favourite sights.

They now have a Blog of their travels, if you are interested you can find it at –

https://frenchescapades145481411.wordpress.com/

Last Days in England

On Monday we sorted all our remaining accumulated UK based bits and bobs, choosing what we will take home and what to take to a local Charity Shop.  Then we started to pack.

We drove into nearby Pershore to visit the Op Shop as we call them, and took a walk along the River Avon, now at its normal level.  It was a lot lower than when we last visited 2 months ago, when it was in flood.

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There were a few narrowboats moored along the bank, taking advantage of the good shops and facilities of Pershore.

We came across this Morgan in the car park with a large chap sitting near it in pain.  After chatting to  the couple we found the seat wasn’t comfortable for him.  Their family gave them a day out in the Morgan to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

They invited Roger to hop in and have a dream or two.

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Later Marion and Jonathon hosted a lovely dinner with Sally and Tom from next door.  First some drinks by the lake.

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It was a bit cool to eat on the terrace so we went into the greenhouse and ate in there.

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Very nice on an English summer’s evening.

On Tuesday we did some last minute shopping in Evesham, did some more packing and Heather took a last walk around the lake.

One of the swans was energetically cleaning itself.

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The geese watched quietly.

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So did the rest of the swan family.

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Very  peaceful.

So today, Wednesday, we plan to drive down to London Heathrow and board our plane to come home again.  Leaving the nice summer weather and back to Melbourne’s winter.

It has been a great holiday, but it’s time to return to the real world.

 

Leaving Canillac

On Saturday, we were up early for packing, cleaning and spending our last morning with Amber, Adrian, Tahshi and Elijah.

We did a shopping trip in the village for lunch, first the Boulangerie (bread shop) for some bread and croissants.

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Then the Bibiotheque (library) so that Adrian could extend his time with his book of French lessons.

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Then up the main street of Canillac, busy as always.

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Apparently in July and August it will be very busy here as people come from all over to holiday here in the houses that they own or rent.

We passed the Logis (hotel) again.  It doesn’t seem that there have been any guests staying there while we have been here, again that will change soon.

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Into the Epicerie (general store) to say a last au revoir to Thiery who has been friendly and very helpful during our stay.  It helped that his English is a little better than our French.

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We had a last ‘French – style’ lunch then we set off for our drive to Bordeaux, to fly back to the UK on Sunday.

Bye guys, we know you’re going to have a terrific 6 months here, see you in December.

It is a 250km drive to Bordeaux mainly along motorways and major roads, all in very good condition and not busy for our trip.

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Stay to the right Roger!

We had a good drive and made pretty good time.

After the mountains in the Correze region we were amazed at how flat it is around Bordeaux

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We checked into an airport hotel, had  a light meal nearby and had a good nights sleep then we were up early again, turned in our car, checked in for our flight and were soon leaving France.

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Arriving at Gatwick on time, we had a terrible time clearing UK immigration.  The UK/EU counters are all automated as they are in Australia, but the non UK/EU counters are done the old fashioned way and it took nearly 2 hours of standing in a very long queue until we could be processed.

Then we found Avis to hire our car and rejected the first two, settling for a Nissan in the end, and we were away, on yet another motorway, the M40.

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Keep left Roger!

We eventually made it back to Springhill with Marion, Jonathon and Tom again and they made us very welcome again.

The lake looked lovely in the afternoon light.

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The resident swans have finally hatched 3 cygnets, very late but they seem fine so far.

It was such a lovely evening that we had supper on the terrace outside.

Jonathon launched his drone to take some pics for us, here we are all enjoying the evening.

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The next couple of days we will be doing the final sorting of the stuff that we have accumulated over our years of visiting and disposing of what we won’t be able to bring home.

We are leaving here Wednesday to fly home on the new Qantas Dreamliner which will fly non-stop from London to Perth then on to Melbourne.

A long flight to look forward to.

Lunch in Espagnac

Friday was to be our last full day with the family for this French visit, so we decided to go out for a last lunch at Le Tacot restaurant in the small village of Espagnac.

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We had thought that this might be a local pub for Adrian, turns out that it is actually a very nice restaurant instead.

We were a bit more modest this time, only 3 courses but very good food, very French cooking.

The pork dish was nice, in a sauce of cream and tiny mushrooms, with a potato tart.

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The fish dish was also very good, in a sauce with spices and pulses.  Now that’s healthy French food.

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For dessert there was a choice of a rich chocolate pudding, or the strawberry tart, both very good but the chocolate was gone before we could take a photo.

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A good, slow French style lunch.

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We returned home for a rest before heading out later to visit Lisa and Hans in their house near the smaller village of Gummond.

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They made us most welcome again.

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Lisa had baked 2 German style cakes to tempt us with.  This was her Black Forest cake, absolutely delicious & beautiful.

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We also had another lovely cake, Lisa called it a Family Cake, also very tasty.

All this after our satisfying lunch, by now we were stuffed again.

Elijah went for a ride on Hans’ lawnmower to work his off.

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It was light rations again for dinner.

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Around Canillac

On Thursday, Tahshi went to the local kindergarten for the first time, where she will hopefully meet some local friends and fast track her French language skills, with Adrian providing moral support.

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Adrian enjoyed the experience, he’s thinking of going full time to improve his French language skills too.

Elijah had another school project to do.

We set off to explore the Chateau de Sedieres at nearby Clergoux.

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Built as a fortress in the 15th C, the building was extensively remodelled during the Renaissance to its current form as a large 4 storey residence.

There were obviously work being done in and around the building, we went past the gatehouse up to the Chateau to check it out.

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It’s an impressive building, but it’s no longer lived in, it is now open for public viewing.

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We walked into the ticket office to find it deserted.

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We followed the sounds of the people working and discovered that the tourist season hasn’t started here yet, it starts next week.

So we couldn’t do a tour of the building itself, but it was all right for us to walk around the grounds.

Set in 150 hectares, the grounds did not have elaborate gardens, more lakes and woods which were quite picturesque.

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The water lilies on this lake, above the Chateau were pretty in bloom.

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The water in the lakes had a strong brown tinge like the tea tree lakes in Oz.  Here is a spillway from the lake, falling to another lake below the house.

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The lower lake though looked like another maintenance project, can’t see this getting sorted by next week.  Shame, it looked really good in the posters.

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We moved on to the main lake a few hundred metres from the Chateau.

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This is used for boating and water sports and is quite a big lake.

So after our aborted visit to the Chateau de Sedieres we drove into Tulle for a bit of final shopping and back to Canillac.

After lunch Heather went for another long walk with Amber, Adrian and the kids down from the village to the Doustre Creek which feeds into the Dordogne.

Roger stayed at home and caught up on some Blogging.

Down the hill through the woods.

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Reaching the creek down the bottom and onto the forest path.

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Then we walked alongside the creek through some interesting bush, very green and very different from home.

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There is a lot of mossy ground cover, indicative of a wet and cool weather pattern.

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There was an abandoned stone building along the way, we have no idea of its original purpose.

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It was very solid and still in good condition though quite damp.  It did have power attached at one stage but we wouldn’t want to live there.

The creek was getting bigger as we followed it down.

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This bridge across the creek looked like a death trap, but it led to nowhere.  There was no path on the other side, a good thing too.

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Then we were walking back up again, still quite green and mossy.

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Into the village, very steep, Roger had made the right choice again.

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WHO GOES THERE?

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Back into civilisation after another good walk, it’s a shame that Roger missed out.

 

The Monks’ Canal, Aubuzine

Wednesday morning was all about more schooling, washing, domestic stuff and generally waiting out the rain which was pretty constant at the time.  After lunch we decided to go over to another old village named Aubuzine, located between Brive la Gaillarde and Tulle.

There is an old church in the town.

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Adjacent to the church is a large monastery.

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The original monastery was established in the 12th C and our main reason for coming here was to view a canal that had been built by the Monks at that time.

The village, the church and the monastery are all built on a piece of flat ground halfway down the hill.

There is no natural water supply there and although the River Correze which has plenty of water is only about 2km away, it’s in a very steep gorge and moving away from the village.

The Monks’ solution was to build a canal from the River Correze to the town to divert some of the water for use by the villagers.  Our mission was to walk up the length of the canal to the point where the canal and the river joined.

The first ½ km was quite steep.

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We were walking alongside a small creek which turned out to be the outflow of the canal.

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By the time we reached the canal itself, we were quite high above the town and even higher above the surrounding countryside.

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From then on the going was nearly flat, with just enough fall in the land to allow the canal to drain its water downwards.  This followed the route that the Monks had built, about 1½ km to its source.

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We could see that the first part was simply dug out of the lie of the land, though reinforced with a rock bottom and sides to prevent erosion.

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As we moved closer to the gorge, the land was a lot steeper and we could see where the Monks had cut through rocks and built foundations and rock sides to form a dyke alongside the side of the hill and some cliffs.

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Overhanging the gorge at this point, there was a big drop to the Correze flowing quickly through it.  We could see the canal hugging the rock face.

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At this point there was no footing so they had built a small aqueduct to take the water across.

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The stones across the canal are for lateral support of the aqueduct to press the lower stones into place and stop them from collapsing.

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The Monks had built a side sluice above this point to divert any excess water in the canal back to the river below, avoiding potential flooding and destruction of the aqueduct.  They had placed a stone into a side channel, cut to a size and shape to allow any water above a certain level to be diverted.

The further we went, the closer the Correze came to our level as we continued walking next to the canal.

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Then we came to the point where they met, and we could see the feed sluice through which the water from the river was diverted into the canal.

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It has an adjustable paddle to control just how much water was actually diverted.  This is probably not original, the Monks may have used another stone cut to shape instead.

Then we turned around and made our way back to Aubuzine, it had turned out to be a very interesting walk.

 

Busy Day in Correze

Tuesday was a domestic day for the family, with lots of schoolwork and washing, shopping etc. so we headed off to visit some places a little north of Brive la Gaillards.

Heather had heard about a slate mine that was open to the public so we went first to the Pans de Travassac.  We arrived a bit before 11am in time for one of the tours advertised to be on the half hour only to find that there was only one tour and that had left at 10.30.  Bummer.  We were told that there would be another at 3.30pm but we didn’t want to wait around for that.

So we went next to the nearby medieval village of Donzenac.

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The old village is set on the top of a hill as a walled town, with the newer commercial centre nearby.  We went first to the new part for a quick look around.

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There were several restaurants available but everything was closing as we arrived but we managed to sqeak in to a patisserie and get a paninni and a pastry for lunch just in time.

Then we found a picnic table in a square by the old town wall to sit and eat it.  Perfect.

Here is the pastry, a kind of mini crocquenbush, partially eaten by us and very nice.

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After lunch we went for a walk around the old village, through very narrow lanes lined with houses.

Many of the houses have been modernised at some time, mainly with concrete rendering over the old stone walls.  Functional, but it’s a shame that so much of the stone has been obliterated.

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We went into the Chapel of the White Penitents, built from a noble’s townhouse in the 14th C then rebuilt to its current layout after it was acquired by the White Monks in the 17th C.  Light and airy, the altar was unusual in its simplicity.

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Not much of a view out of these windows.

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There were a lot of the laneways and houses in the old town and we found it quite interesting.

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Next we moved on to the Gardens of Colette near the village of Varetz.

Set on 5 hectares, the gardens are well established and maintained, with a lot of interactive displays and games to keep visiting children entertained.

Originally conceived by the nationally famous writer Sidonie Colette who was passionate about her gardens, the property is split into 6 separate gardens that reflect the areas of France in which she lived in the various stages of her life.

There is also a maze covering over 1 hectare, in the shape of a butterfly.

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We did the maze, challenging with information boards telling stories that led visiting children through a series of questions that they could answer on printed leaflets that were handed out at the start.  There were 2 sets of questions for 2 age levels.

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The walls had been recently pruned back for the Spring growth so we were able to dismiss some of the dead ends without having to actually try them all out.  In a month, the new growth will make our easy run impossible.

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There were 2 busloads of children exploring the gardens while we were there and they were having great fun with all the games.  Here’s a group entering the Brittany Garden ahead of us.

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Here, a kid size Jenga game.

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The Provence Garden apparently reminded Colette of the sea side.

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The other games included dominoes, checkers, pick-up sticks  and there were some farm animals as well.  We enjoyed our time there and we are sure that Adrian, Amber, Tahshi and Elijah will have a good time there when they visit.

Next we went back to Travassac for another try at seeing the slate mines at the Pans.

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We arrived at about 3.15pm to find everything closed and a French couple waiting for the 3.30 tour, with the ticket office firmly locked.  3.30 came and went then later a woman arrived who took our money, gave us a printed information sheet in English and informed us that we were waiting for a bus group to arrive.

The group of 36 arrived and we went into the Pans de Travassac.

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The Pans have been mined for over 300 years and a huge amount of slate has been removed, from what are now deep chasms, with deep water pools at the bottom.

There is still slate at the site and it is still mined in small amounts for the maintenance of building that have used it before, but no longer in large amounts.

We found that the tour was very slow and incomprehensible to us in the French language so after waiting for 15 minutes at the first stop, and armed with our English information sheets, we moved ahead.

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Down through one of the remaining troughs in the slate, it was an incredible experience.  The amount of slate that has been mined must have been very lucrative for the miners.

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There are several holes cut through the slate at various levels to provide access from one trough to the next as the miners descended over the centuries.

An eerie landscape.

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Some of the higher, older excavations are a bit fragile and they have been secured with huge bolts dilled back into the walls to stop them falling.  Though there is plenty of evidence of slate having fallen over the years.

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Some of the walkways have observation points where you can look out into the adjoining chasm.  These were originally platforms for cranes for moving mined slate around the site.

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Some of the older falls have just been left where they fell, and nature has taken over, with moss and trees providing colour.

 

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The natural layers of slate are impressive.

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At the end of the tour is a work area where a slate miner shows how the mined slate is split and shaped into roof tiles, decorative hearts or other shapes as required.  We didn’t hang around for the demonstration though as we were by now so far ahead of the group that we would have had to wait another hour to see it.

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In another chasm was a musuem and a workshop for sharpening tools but there was nobody there so we finished our tour and headed off.

On the road outside we saw this shape of the Batman symbol.  It looks like somebody has cut some slate in the symbol, stuck it to the road and then it has come off leaving the shape.

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Just after we left Travassac, we were engulfed by a huge thunderstorm, here passing the railway station at Tulle on the way back to Canillac.

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We gave a thought for the other people on the tour, now still in the Pans in all this rain, counting ourselves lucky.

Another interesting day.

Rocamadour

On Monday we visited the very old village of Rocamadour, famous for its astounding beauty and an important place for pilgrims through the ages.

The village is in three parts, built up a near vertical cliff face.

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The bottom level is the medieval village.  The second is the church and chapel precinct and the top is the Chateau.  It is all truly amazing and well worth a visit.

We went to the tourist office about a 15 minute walk from Rocamadour itself and started down to the lower village.  It is an interesting, easy walk down into the valley, very pretty on both sides.  Another great day for walking.

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We were soon into the old village, which is perched on the side of the cliff, with a single row of buildings on each side of a central laneway.

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Many of the ground floors of the buildings have been converted into restaurants and all kinds of shops to cater to the many tourists that visit.

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Ever heard the story about the kid in the candy shop?  Tahshi and Elijah were in their element here.

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Looking straight up at the church level, with the Chateau at the top.

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It was a great view of the other side of the valley too.

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To get to the church level, there’s a choice of a lift or 5 flights of stairs with 216 steps.  This is the second flight.

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Pilgrims were expected to make the journey on their knees as penance for their sins, the lift wasn’t available in those days.

Elijah and Tahshi ran up the stairs, the rest of us walked.

Here is the last flight, up to the actual Church level.

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There are several chapels and grottos that have been used for various purposes over the centuries, the main Church is dedicated to St John the Baptist.

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Having made their pilgrimage, devout followers would be re-baptised in one of the grottos and then reach their final objective, the statue of the Black Virgin to pay homage.

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The sword Durendal remains stuck into its cleft in the cliff face above the chapel.

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It is said to have been a sword of great power and religious significance, sharp beyond all comparison.  It is said to have been thrust into the rock in the 12th C by Roland, paladin of Charlemagne to prevent the invading Saracen from capturing it after he had been mortally wounded.

The journey up to the Chateau level was a choice of a windy path or another lift.  Tahshi and Roger took the lift.

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The others took the path.

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The path was pretty with a little temple on each bend depicting the story of Jesus’s crucifixion for visiting pilgrims along the way.

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We all met up again at the top and went to have a look around the parapets of the Chateau.

The views were amazing.

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This is looking straight down at the Church level and then lower down to the medieval Village where we had been earlier.

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We had a great time at Rocamadour.

On the way home, we visited a winery for a tasting and tried some reds and straw rose and whites, buying some of our favourites.

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Another very interesting day.