Rivers, rain and really high bridges

We’re back in Charente Maritime after our month in the South and apparently it’s the wettest January that people can remember! Rivers have burst their banks and roads have been closed. We did have a sunny spell so we dashed outside to see how the garden is bearing up.

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During our last week in the South we explored Béziers, a city that boasts a canal and a river. In fact, in a feat of engineering for its time, the canal was even built over the river.

We are finding ourselves a bit obsessed with canals at the moment. We visited Capestang and enjoyed a lovely walk along the canal looking at all the canal boats moored up for the winter season.

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Every town we explore has to have its Mairie photographed…

Here are Béziers, Puisserguier, Charroux and Confolens to add to my collection!

Charroux is officially one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France so, of course, we had to make a slight detour to check it out:

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We also had to check out the incredible Millau Viaduct on our trip back up North. It is a feat of engineering of the modern age designed by Sir Norman Foster and Michel Virlogeux. It’s the tallest bridge in the world. The tallest pylon is over the height of the Eiffel Tower! The bridge is so iconic that they had to lower the speed limit because so many people were slowing down anyway to take photos. They now have a visitors’ centre at one end of the bridge where you can take photos to your heart’s content!

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One of our favourite days in Montpellier involved a morning trip to the aquarium then lunch at a winery next to a château on the outskirts of the city. We were lucky enough to tag along to an out-of-season house tour followed by a wine tasting session. Days just don’t get much better than that! This is the orangery of the Château de Flaugergues which I can highly recommend.

À bientôt, bisous.

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Quiz and queen for a day

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Happy New Year to everyone. 2018 has started off well. I left Rich in Carcassonne to finish pet sitting while I took the train to Montpellier to start the next sit (a slight overlap which was easily remedied by the “divide and conquer” strategy). As I waited on the platform for the train to arrive I enjoyed a spectacular sunset. In my imagination I was about to board the Orient Express but in reality the local SNCF train pulled into the station and I headed off in the direction of Montpellier. I had been looking forward to watching the scenery roll by from the comfort of my seat but I had forgotten I was travelling after dark so, apart from a brief glimpse of Beziers as the train went through, there was not much to see!

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After meeting the house owner and the cat, I spent the night then Rich joined me the next day after the owner had already left for her trip. In the time before Rich arrived, I made a beeline for the nearest decent looking coffee shop and – hallelujah – I found what I’ve been looking for! A flat white, avocado on toast, green smoothie, cappuccino and carrot cake later I was satisfied that I had found my Little Cove Espresso replacement. Needless to say, I have been back every day and they now recognise me! It will be so hard to leave it behind…

We have both really enjoyed exploring the city. We are a short stroll from the historic centre with its lovely architecture and quirky shops. Look closely at the photos below and see if you can spot the giant murals which look so realistic that we had to do a double take when we came across the first one.

We have been out of the city to find the marshy lagoon area known as Lattes and we have been to the zoo. I’m not quite sure what the blue sign signifies and the sign as we left Lattes seemed to be taunting me that I’d only find coffee I really like in this area!

But what about the quiz and the queen for a day?

Well, you know us, we can never pass up a pub quiz and I managed to find an English pub that runs a bilingual quiz once a week. So off we went to The Shakespeare with all the students (Rich can’t believe there are so many twenty-somethings in this city) and we enjoyed an evening of drinking and quizzing. We did not disgrace ourselves (being only a team of 2 and well over the average age of the rest of the clientele) and we came in about half way down the rankings.

And queen for a day? Well, you may or may not know that the French observe Epiphany or Twelfth Night (also known as Three Kings Day) with a wonderful tradition. In any bakery you can purchase a Galette des Rois (a Kings’ Cake) which, in our case, was a flaky pastry tart filled with a frangipane or almond paste and, hidden inside, is a small fève or ceramic keepsake (a bit like the sixpence hidden in a Christmas pudding). As the tradition dictates, the cake is sliced into as many slices as there are people to share it, plus one. The youngest in the group sits under the table (or just closes their eyes) and nominates who should be served each slice. The person who finds the fève in their slice is crowned the King or Queen for the day and gets to wear the crown that is supplied with the cake (they can also choose a King or Queen to help them reign)! Needless to say, I found the fève so I was Queen for the day and I nominated Rich to be my King!

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I hope the year has started off well for you and that you are staying warm and dry (I hear the temperatures have been plummeting in Hong Kong so wrap up warm and turn up the reverse air conditioning to heat mode)! To warm your heart, here’s a picture of the cat we are looking after:

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À bientôt, bisous.