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Holiday Photos France May 2016

I have now edited some raw versions of our holiday snaps. You can see them below.

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Playing in Grimaud and St Tropez

Yesterday we went to book a horse riding trip for Thursday and on the way back we stopped in Grimaud for lunch. We had a saunter round and wandered up to the old chateau that tops the hill. It is a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring.

Lunch was lovely. Norwegian salad for me and an omelette for Peanut washed down with a glass of white wine each. A lot of Harley bikers were there making the restaurant busy. 

We had planned to go to the beach but the strength of the sun had waned so we went to St Tropez for a mooch instead. 

We parked in the centre at place des Lices and then headed to the port to grab a few photos of the yachts.

A lot of the more traditional yachts were in the port which to us are more interesting to see. Contrasting with these were the Harleys parked along the quayside. Peanut grabbed this photo. The reddy background is from the seats of one of the more famous cafes that surround the port. I loved this image that P shot.


Walkabout in Port Cogolin

The morning rain had cleared but left ominous dark clouds in the sky. We took the opportunity to walk around Port Cogolin as we always find something to photograph.

I love to capture detail shots from around the port and there are always flowers to be found too.

Interesting cars are always showing up. This Jeep lives here and I just love this vehicle, it just looks so full of purpose.

When you see a 2CV you know you are going to photograph that too.

A cat and a bird are again prime targets for the camera

Next we have an assortment of other interesting things we came across.

And finally a walk around Port Cogolin is not complete if I don’t grab a photo of the crane. I love this crane.

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A Wet Morning in Port Cogolin

Brilliant sunshine streamed through the narrow gap in our window shutters to wake us with the promise of a beautiful day. However in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea in bed the weather had changed and dark, heavy clouds promised  a downpour. 

And down it came, marooning us in our apartment. Only one thing to do – take some photos.

First I grabbed the landscape pictures above using the 27mm pancake lens and the I turned to the big zoom lens for some detail shots.

It’s amazing what you can find to photograph on the patio. I loved this shot of water droplets clinging to the leaves. I played around with the image and rather liked the black and white version.

Then I amazed myself by just how much I liked this photo of pegs on a clothes drier. Now my first rule of photography is “If you want to take a good photograph, stand in front of something good.”

I’m not sure that this adheres to rule number one, but nonetheless I love this photo.

Next I grabbed a close up of the copper roof on the band stand below us.

Later the rain stopped and we went on a walkabout. I’ll share those pictures later but I’ll leave you with this one of The Pouncho, which will take you across the Gulf of St Tropez to the famous fishing village.

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Holiday Diary- France And Italy August 2015 Day 15

Friday 4th September.

Yesterday we trawled about looking for some bits for the apartment to replace the rug and the red leather chair. We bought a rug and a marble topped bistro table. This morning we had a rethink.

We decided to get rid of a pouffe and a coffee table, put the bistro table there with two chairs from outside and keep the red chair and get s throw to disguise its tattiness. So this morning we went out and got a table cloth for the table and a circular place mat and a throw for the chair. For good measure we got a little stool for the bedroom too to replace the old one we had.

If my health remains good we will come back at Christmas and finish the bedroom. We will get some rugs and a bedspread in the UK and I will add a few pictures that I have taken for the walls and bring them with us.

We had some cheese and biscuits for lunch on our terrace watching the sleepy comings and goings in the small port just below us. Having spent the morning trawling about shops hunting down stuff for the apartment we lazed about in the afternoon reading. The day was overcast and the beach wasn’t calling us.

However, we decided to head to L’Escalet beach about 4ish and see what photographs we could take. We shot on the two Fuji cameras one zoom and one 18-55. In truth I don’t think we got anything sensational but we enjoyed the walk as we headed to our favourite beach there. The sun came out and it made for a lovely coastal walk but without the intense heat we might have had.

Back home and we decided to eat downstairs at Tiramasui. This is an Italian and the food really is quite good. I had pasta bolognese and Peanut had tagliatelle with scampi. White wine and sparkling water to wash it down and a lovely coffee Gourmand to finish with.

A lovely lazy day. 


Holiday Diary- France And Italy August 2015 Day 14

Thursday 3rd September.
Another gloriously indulgent morning lazing about, tea in bed, reading, writing, before finally getting up and heading out a little after 11.

We were shopping for the apartment as some things were looking tired in there. The rug was ten years old now and was showing it. Too many drinks spilled on it, too many stains. The red leather chair we had brought here ten years ago in the back of CooperBeast, the red Cooper we had back then and now belonging to The Elf, has succumbed to the sun, the pressed leather is peeling off in droves. We had in mind then a new rug and a bistro set or just a small round table to replace the chair. This would be better for eating inside in the Winter.
We headed to Frejus where the out of town shopping stores are located on the N7 out towards Pugens sur Argent. Almost immediately we hit slow moving traffic on the coast road that runs through Ste Maxime and onto Frejus. However, it was moving, the sun was shining and the views were lovely. We were happy enough stuck in the traffic.
Past the water centre we turned left towards the A8 and sometime later went left out on the N7. First though we spotted a garden centre and gave that a try. What is it with garden centres? They are so expensive. Furniture in the thousands of Euros league and so on. We have never had a bargain in a garden centre. The garden centres in England are just the same too.
We saw Castorama and went in there. Straight away we spotted a round 60cm bistro table with a white marble top and black wrought iron stand. The same style as the dining table we use in the loggia. We decided to go for that and if we see something else then that can live outdoors. On the way out we spotted a rug, so we loaded the table in the car and went back in. Ten minutes later we were out with a multi coloured rug in cream, dark grey, yellow gold and teal,with two teal cushions to tie it into the room. 

We were hungry by now and on the way out a gorgeous smell of a hamburger cooking wafted in the air. There was a burger van in the car park. We put the huge rug in SilverBeast and decided we would make do with some burgers. The name on the van was Son of a Bun and they had a website We had a burger each and shared a pot of chips. Well, that was the best burger I have ever had in my life bar none. Peanut reached the same conclusion. For me it was arguably the best thing I had eaten on my whole holiday. The chips too were delicious. If you ever see that name on your travels then grab a burger.
We looked in a few more shops around there and then felt a bit weary of it so headed for San Raphael for a cup of tea and to window shop in town shops. We soon wearied of the shopping bit and tea beckoned. I wanted fresh lemon, Peanut English tea. We stopped at the first cafe and waited and waited and left after ten minutes as no one had even come near us to take our order. Further down the road a second cafe and this time we ordered. They had no fresh lemon so we asked for English tea for two. They brought Earl Grey. Peanut told them it was wrong to which they said it was all they had, so we walked out of that one. Third cafe…
We ordered One English tea and one freshly squeezed lemon drink. The waiter turned up with Earl grey Tea for Peanut and never brought mine. Again it was all they had. We walked out of there.
A trail of feathers ran behind Peanut she was so thirsty she was spitting feathers. Her patience was wearing thin. She was thirsty things were not boding well. In my mind I was envisaging a scene, an argument, a man on the floor, a policeman, Peanut in handcuffs, visiting hours. My mind ran amok as we entered the fourth cafe and prayed for good old English tea.
Fourth time lucky. I was so glad, so relieved. My lemon was sharp, but nothing like as sharp as Lady P’s tongue if the tea had been wrong. I could see the tabloid headline, “Death by Tongue Lashing.” Peanut’s tea was lovely and as I drank my lemon and added sugar and more water it too was lovely and I decided I would have this at home. I first tasted fresh lemon drink mixed with sugar, over ice and a sliver of lemon, as a little boy on the streets of Sorrento. They have millions of lemons in that part of the world and to this day I always remember that as being a lovely refreshing drink. This one was better though because I sat there drinking it, wallowing in the knowledge that Peanut would not be arrested today.

The port of Frejus is glitzy and modern a kind of French modern Art Deco style. It has its own style different to Port Grimaud where we are which is more Provençal traditional style. San Raphael is similar to Frejus Port but not as modern, because Frejus Port is all new whereas San Raphael has evolved through history. Anyway I mention this because they have done some work in the port a new fish market and a new up market restaurant, which looks very stylish. On the way home, the traffic moved slowly as we crossed the eye catching bridge in Ste Maxime on the edge of the town which you can clearly see across the gulf. I finally managed to photograph this without going to any real effort to get the shot. Anyway, I was rather pleased with these iPhone shots of the bridge and the Restaurant back in San Raphael.

We got back to the apartment a little after 6 did some cleaning and unravelled our rug and assembled the table. It was looking good. A cup of tea and to be honest nothing else after our 2 pm burger!

A read and bed. Another nothing day on the blue coast.

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Holiday Diary – France and Italy August 2015 Day 13

Wednesday 2nd September.
We had not had the best night of sleep. It was warm and we only had a sheet over us. Peanut needed a little more weight and it had disturbed her. With me my back ached all night, so I slept in stops and starts.
A little after 7 I went to the fridge took a few pills downed with an Actimel and ate a yogurt coated energy bar. I went back to bed and wrote the blog for the day before. Peanut woke made me a coffee and herself a tea and we chatted lazily. Then she got up and nipped to the nearby garage for some fresh croissants and a pan au chocolat for me. I lazed in bed still working on the blog, slowly moving my position as a sliver of sun came through the half opened wooden shutters. Peanut returned and set the table in the loggia with the croissants, juice and jam and together we devoured the croissants. In Venice we had apricot filled croissants for breakfast. They were lovely, but the French ultimately do the best croissants. They were… Delicious. Yes delicious such a perfect word, not onomatopoeic like the “howl” of a dog or a wolf, but still a word whose sound evokes the word’s meaning. Delicious, delicious, delicious. It’s Mary Poppins good – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. French croissants then. They’re good!
We showered, dressed and under a hot sun drove to St Tropez. The holiday season ends at the end of August and the difference was noticeable. The roads were very quiet and we breezed into town. Usually we park bang in the middle in Place des Lices but it was so hot we decided to give the car some shade in the underground car park behind Place des Lices. Walking through our usual car park which holds no more than 50 cars, we saw 1 Rolls Royce, 2 Bentleys, 1 Ferrari, 2 Maseratis and 5 Porsches of various types. Impressive even by St Tropez standards.
We were on a mission. We walked down the narrow shop strewn alley, Rue Georges Clemenceau, then left along Rue General Allard, past the Breitling shop (without pause) until just shy of halfway along we came to the Longchamp shop. We looked in the window and the bag Peanut had her eye on had gone. They had another inside and glimpsing at an angle through the door I saw it. We stepped in and walked the length of a long thin shop to the counter at the rear of the store. The lady spoke great English and was very helpful, a complete contrast to the middle aged East German shop assistant we encountered in Berlin when we bought Peanut her Coeur de Lyon necklace. We got the bag out, a beautiful grey, yellow and black bag sitting on a small base and widening either side to the top of the bag. Very chic and very Peanut in its 3 colour ways. The bag had matching yellow, grey and black gloves and the size 6 and a half gloves were a perfect fit. I suppose the expression I’m looking for is “They fitted like a glove”. A delicate petite silk scarf in the same colours completed the look. What could I say, my Lady looked like the Lady she is, so I said, ” Wrap them up please.”
As the tissue paper and the cardboard and the bag for the bag came out I wandered about the shop and spied a beautiful leather belt in blue, something I had been after for a while. In England stores stock brown or black but blue is on-line territory. The lady removed all the tags so I could try it on properly through my belt loops and also said don’t worry we can adjust the size in two minutes if it is too big. It’s not like this everywhere else I have been where the security tags stay in place so it is nigh impossible to see if it fits. Well this “Fitted like a glove.” Well no it didn’t, but it fit like a belt should and made my powder blue Burtons shirts instantly look four times more expensive than they were. This search had almost took as long as Peanut’s search for her handbag so I was proper chuffed and had it wrapped in tissue paper.

Pleased with ourselves we turned left out of the shop mooched some more and stopped at a cafe on Place Alfonce Celli for an orange Minute Maid drink.

From here we headed up to the higher ground through the Three Arches at Rue Misericorde to a restaurant where we both enjoyed an omelette each while sharing a plate of chips. Now a ham and cheese omelette is not really anything to wax lyrical about really – unless of course you are me. It was scrumptious (another Mary Poppinsesque word) with a hint of runniness as you cut the omelette reminiscent of a soft boiled egg cooked for exactly four minutes.

After lunch we had done with St Tropez. Il Maestro needed a siesta in his pied de terre. We went home via Geant the huge supermarket 800 yards from us. We picked up some milk, eggs, cakes, cheese and so on. I’m not a lover of supermarkets but I do enjoy shopping in Geant.
Back home and a well earned cup of tea went down a treat. We had a siesta, lazed about, read – me reading Jack Reacher still and Peanut getting into Michael Connelly. I like Reacher books, easy to read, short sentences, definitely a style of its own. Reacher has an eye for detail, an obsessive character. Simple gripping books. 
It was time for dinner a salad the same as we had before. A bed of iceberg lettuce tossed with salad dressing, ringed by sliced hard boiled eggs and tomatoes. Topped with lardons and croutons and a goats cheese cake wrapped in bacon, warmed and served on top. Followed by cheese and crackers and cakes. We washed it down with Ice Tropez. Simple but perfect in this weather. Scented candles to keep the mosquitoes away meant that my lady opposite was lit by candlelight. Her eyes sparkled and her smile added more light. She looked beautiful.

I was so smitten I promised her half a lager in Monroe’s Irish bar while we caught the second half of the Monaco v Paris St Germain football match. 3.0 to Paris. In truth we needed some internet access while I checked my bank, which in this uncertain world of flux and constant change was reassuringly in its same consistent state of sad despair. All good then. Peanut satiated by her football fix was now happy for us to return home to a crowded bed shared with Reacher and Mickey Haller.

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Holiday Diary – France and Italy August 2015 Day 12

Tuesday 1st September.
Our Venice adventure ended today and we were returning to Port Cogolin for a few days. Breakfast in our room came a little after nine and together we enjoyed our last breakfast in Venice for this trip. I hoped my health would let me return in the future.
We washed and packed and I thought back on our time spent here. We had not really done that much, but I think this time it was about just enjoying the place. We loved our hotel room and had spent lazy mornings there breakfasting, reading and writing. Our room was such a lovely place to be, lying on the bed, or sitting on the sofa, with the balcony window ajar listening to the bustle of the city below coming in. Shopping of course is always fun here and we did a lot of that. The Murano glass visit was a new experience for us and since we assembled and hung our own chandelier earlier this year, Peanut has been fascinatingly looking at chandeliers, assessing their intricacies and breaking them down in her mind into their component parts. Yes, Venice as always has given us a lovely time.
We went to reception ordered a water taxi and checked out. The taxi meandered through the busy narrow canals and emerged onto The Grand Canal just by The Rialto Bridge between the bridge and the fish market. I bought Peanut the first leather gloves I ever bought her on the Rialto Bridge back in about 2006 when we came here on a day trip from the Dolomites with a bunch of fellow MINI drivers. This trip the lady got mask earrings off the bridge. I got a kiss in 2006 and I got a kiss this time round too. That’s the important bit.
At twelve we drove out of Piazzale Roma, crossed the long bridge to the mainland and pointed at Port Cogolin. The sat nav said 18.30 for our arrival. I did the first 2 hours, the motorway was wide and fast and SilverBeast purred along at the Italian pace set by the drivers around me.
We stopped for lunch in a service station and had pizza and chips each. If we had known we would have had one portion between us – they were huge!
Peanut took over for a big middle stint, I reclined my seat leaned a pillow against my window and had an afternoon Gentleman’s nap.
An hour later Peanut’s hand reached for mine and woke me. The tyre pressure warning light was on and Peanut had slowed to 50. An HGV behind us honked at us as he overtook. We were too slow for them forcing them to down change. A big deal for truckers. I told P to put her hazards on, whenever a truck loomed behind then they could set themselves up to overtake without down changing. It worked no more tooting horns.
It wasn’t a blow out the car handled fine, though a little soft. We cruised to a service station where there was air. Unfortunately, the air worked but the gauge didn’t. We hadn’t packed our own pressure gauge. Schoolboy error by us on a long road trip. I pumped a hefty amount of air into each tyre and we carried on for the next service station.
The gauge worked. I aimed for 37 psi all round. As it happened all were there or there abouts. We concluded that it was an all round lowering of pressure that had prompted the Tyre monitoring to trigger a warning. We decided to drive home to Port Cogolin and check again on Friday, just to be sure it isn’t a slow puncture. Visually we could see nothing. In Italy we had done a lot of farm tracks and hit a few potholes so with hindsight we should have checked our tyres before leaving Tuscany for Venice. Another school boy error.
The handling was definitely right now and Peanut put some more miles behind us. I was wide awake now and we put our iTunes onto random. An hour from Monaco the music cycle hit a golden patch and we had a sing song in the car where appropriate. Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain (F1song) got Peanut right in the groove and she drove this 3 and a half hour stint superbly. She had found a Chevrolet muscle car to follow. He was fast but not crazy fast and we hung onto his shirt tails. I think he enjoyed it too teasing us on a straight opening it up a bit and so on it was fun.
T Rex and The Jeepster blasted out. Such simple light words. Look up the words. I think you know my nickname is Beastie, or The Beastmaster. I loved this song and told Mrs P my full title had just got longer. I am now il Maestro, Beastmaster The Jeepster! God I’m vain aren’t I? Well yes I am but to be serious the first step to having someone like you – the real you – is to like yourself, to like the person you see reflected back at you in the bathroom mirror each morning.
Dean Martin did a stint on the stereo too and we swayed, smooched and sung in the car to Amore and Sway. Sinatra’s My Way helped us along our road and Pavarotti belted out E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, which made me want to sing but, I can’t speak Italian! This was so good I played it twice. Dire Straits made me reach behind the seat for my air guitars, classic and electronic, as we did 9 miles listening to the sublime Private Investigations. A few Abba songs had me clapping and singing and Frankie Goes To Hollywood put us through the emotional mangle with The Power of Love. “I’ll protect you from the hooded claw” is a line that always makes us think of our cat Ola, as she raises her paw to warn our other cat Alfie to stay away. He never listens and we fail to protect him from the hooded claw. 
It was a fantastic series of songs that came up in a row. We swapped drivers and I did the last short stint home arriving back at 19.15. A good run with few traffic hold ups. 15 minutes later we were unpacked and drinking tea. We read. I’m 5 hours into the 61 Hours Jack Reacher book that P has finished and she is getting slowly into Michael Connelly’s the Fifth Witness. 
A day of not a lot, yet a day of fun, of singing and clapping and driving and laughing. But stage left in the pantomime, dark in the corner, the evil witch lurked, as my back had ached all day.

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Holiday Diary – France and Italy August 2015 Day 5

Tuesday was planned to be a beach day as the forecast was good and in these parts that actually counts for something. True to the forecast’s word we woke to a perfect day. The strong winds of yesterday had blown all the cobwebs off the surrounding hill tops to give us a crystal clear sky and the glorious rich light that has pulled painters to this part of the world for centuries past. 

Pale little worms that we are however, we seriously could not spend a whole day in the sun. So we took it easy, a bit like yesterday really and finally surfaced about 11.30. Peanut spent the morning reliving 61 hours of Jack Reacher’s life, while I remained engrossed in Lucy Foley’s fascinating first novel. We breakfasted leisurely soaking in the sounds of the port just below us, boat engines burbling, the half hearted flutters of flags chasing the little wind they could find and hose pipes gently washing down boat decks.
We got our gear together packed a picnic with cheese crackers and some drinks in the cool bag and we set of to Gigaro. First port of call was the beach shop where I managed to get myself a new hat that frankly I’m delighted with as previously hats I tried had been every variety of not right – too big, too small, too high, wrong brim and so on. It takes a lot to compliment my face! Then to the food shop to buy some extras to go with the goodies we already had. Just some apple puffs and fruit.

All was good until we went into the boot en route to the beach and discovered we had left the picnic behind. Not best pleased with our ever increasing dotage we returned to the shop for some more food. 20 minutes later sitting on the beach munching warm chicken thighs with the most delicious crusty fresh bread and our oversight didn’t seem so bad!
The beach is a people watcher’s paradise and neither of us could settle to read. First the wind was back keeping the skies piercingly clear and blue and whipping the sea into a grand avalanche of irresistible waves that pounded the beach unceasingly. This created endless entertainment as we watched swimmers jump the waves and surfers ride them. Blow up surfboards were de rigeur and young men flexed their muscles as they pumped on huge manual inflators to turn their flaccid vinyl into a rock hard phallus fit for Neptune to ride the waves on.
Satiated by the sights around me I lay down and closed my eyes. The bright sun turned the inside of my eyelids into a blank canvas of the purest blood red orange I have ever seen. Often with my eyes floaters roam in this domain spoiling the purity of colour but not today, and I soaked in the view the inside of my eyelids gave me with simple delight.

Peanut pulled me into the real world and asked me to come with her while she battled the waves. I was envious. My PIC line in my arm had to be kept dry and free from infection, I couldn’t battle nature, I could only watch. Peanut ran into the water. She was transformed into an innocent ten year old, her delight written all across her face as she gambolled through the waves. A strong wave bumped her back and she wobbled nervously. Then her beaming smile broke past the edges of her ears and she jumped right back at the next wave, willing it to fight her. The wind was blowing in my eyes and tears poured down my face as a result – or was this just emotion? The joy of the simple pleasure unfolding before my eyes.
I moved in closer for some photos and felt the sea wash up to my waist. I could sense it’s power and I was wrapped up in the power of nature. Today it had come to play with us, entertain and amuse us, showing us the barest flick of what it is capable of and I felt then an overwhelming sense of humility, as I stared down these powerful waves. Playing.

The beach entertainment rolled on. Next, I was snatched away from the wondrous blood red canvas of my eyes by the sight of a huge wild boar that had come down off the hills to snort in my ear not two feet away but luckily behind a small wooden fence. Gulp! A small wooden fence! Crowds gathered around us photographing the wild boar, who by now should be viral on Facebook. I was pleased to see the hoards, I felt that my chances of being the first one to be eaten by the wild boar had now reduced!
The Wild Boar became yesterday’s news to be replaced by the headline “Unexploded Bomb Found on Gigaro Beach”. On investigation this was not quite the case. Remember the blissful beach days of yesteryear when a snooze was impossible due to the relentless phut phut phut as bat and ballers strive to make their rallies last long enough to ensure that the phut shot into every sleeping corner of your mind, well now the Germans have marched onto the beach armed with more than their towels. Now they bring inflated grenades with fins on the back similar in shape to the bombs dropped by the infamous Stuka bombers of the Second World War. They throw these at each other and yes the fins scream and holler the sound of death that evoked such terror 75 years ago. Boy I have never needed a Drone and a Hellfire more in my life!
Eventually the Blitzkrieg ended as the bombers bored of bombing each other and my sanguine world returned. Content we headed back to our apartment to prepare for our next adventure. 
We filled the MINI with petrol on the way home and after a shower and an odd dinner of cheese and biscuits and anything else still in the apartment that needed eating we packed a case.

Tomorrow this hard and perilous life, where death seems to threaten in every corner of the beach that is our world, takes us to Tuscany!