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Oops – We’re In The Wrong Country!

  Trieste, Italy, was a very elegant city, combining Italian, German, Latin, Austrian, Hungarian and Slavic cultures, but it was time to move on to Slovenia and Croatia.   We could not find an automatic car to rent in downtown Trieste and found automatic transmission vehicles were only available at the airport. We paid an astonishing $120 for a taxi from Trieste to Trieste Airport, which is 50 km away from Trieste, in Montflanquin, and then we just barely found a vehicle at a reasonable rate.   As if it wasn’t bad enough paying $120 to the airport, we had to pay … More…

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Kicked Off The Train in Milan

  Managing the trains in Europe is not so easy as one might expect. Nice to Venice through Milan was $120C, changing trains three times with only 10-12 minutes each time to change trains.   Now when you have to find a new train, on a new platform, usually requiring you to drag all your suitcases up and down steep flights of stairs, look at the boards to find the number and platform of your new train (sometimes only posted minutes before departure), then walk half a kilometer or so to the new platform, confirm the new train number, and find … More…

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A Little Gem On The Cote D’Azur

  The Cote d’Azur is beautiful, but touristy and we were not so interested in these things, so when we discovered a little-known gem along the Cote D’Azur, we were delighted to spend a little time there.  While it is still a bit touristy, it was small enough to have just a few families on the beach, enjoying the sunny day on the Mediterranean. This is Bandol, just past Cassis, France. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone.   Really a lovely relaxing place, quieter than many of the towns on the Cote d’Azur…   Dreamhost Rebate

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Cote D’Azur, The French Riviera and Provence

  So what is the difference between the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera and Provence? It was confusing, but eventually we sorted it out. The Cote d’Azur in English is The French Riviera. Provence is the short form of the entire region, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. There are still all kinds of regions, districts, departments and sub-divisions, all of which seem to overlap.   At any rate, the Cote d’Azur is that area between Cassis and the Italian border (see map below), literally translated as ‘the blue coast’ of the Mediterranean Sea.   The history of the Cote d’Azur goes back forever, and there is extensive … More…

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A People Study in Aix (or Classic French Style)

  Aix is an elegant city with extremely well-dressed people, cobblestone streets, book stores, parks, gardens, and it has the beautiful Fountain la Rotunde at the end of the Cours Mirabeau, often compared to the Champs-Elysees street in Paris. There is a cultural air in Aix, and a hint of snobbishness.   So we sat at a restaurant at the Fountain la Rotunde, sipped cool drinks, and people-watched. Here’s what we saw:     I love the way French women dress. It is always a casual yet polished look. The most obvious difference was that they often wore long scarves wrapped loosely around the … More…

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French Villages, French Art, Forests & Farms

  Provence is full of quaint French villages and towns, and gorgeous landscapes. If you’re wandering around Southern France, do just that – wander.   Wander… meander…. stray… stroll… sit on a bench…. stop for lunch… have a coffee… get lost… this is the best part of travelling in France.   Allow enough time to spend half a day in a town or village that you find especially charming, and don’t be in a rush to get to the next town. This was our biggest mistake, and we know better. Our excuse was that we had a house sit in France … More…

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Wild White Horses & Black Bulls

  From Carcassonne, we continued to drive to the coast of Southern France, stopping in Aigues-Mortes, another Bastille town with a large rampart around the old town, then on to Park Camargue, a half-hour south of Arles where semi-wild black bulls and white horses roam freely…   There are 2500 “Gardians” that live in traditional windowless huts with bull horns over the door that keep a watch over the horses and bulls, and farm the land… (hut on far right)   The gardians are considered to be very noble protectors of the natural reserve, and traditionally wear black hats, moleskin pants and carry … More…

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La Citee Medievale de Carcassonne

The drive to Carcassonne was beautiful…   We loved the little towns perched on hilltops…     Then, as you come around a corner of the highway, you might think you are seeing a mirage, an illusion, but there in the distance on a hill, is an astonishingly huge citadel!   This is the fairy tale walled city of Carcassonne…     This citadel is a real FORTRESS… huge, tough, impenetrable…   Complete with moat…   Inside was a bit touristy, but some very interesting shops…   An imposing, striking, and dramatic fortress….   Carcassonne is a small city of 50,000 … More…

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House Sitting: It’s The Little Things

  House sitting sounds easy enough – who can’t look after 3 dogs and 4 chickens on a gorgeous country property?   The problem lies in the constant tension created when you are not sure of things. Why is the dog biting himself? Why is that chicken not moving? What if that had just caught on fire? What if one of the dogs gets run over? Where is this? Where is that? Driving up and down trying to find the recycle bins, or looking for a can opener for an hour. Breaking something, however small, even a glass… What if it … More…

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Superb Food In Southern France?

  One day, from our House Sit, we went out to a 4 star Michelin Chef restaurant that had raving reviews on Trip Adviser, and was also highly recommended by a neighbor.   The host/owner offered impeccable service and the menu looked absolutely scrumptious:   We liked the soup a lot – a thick mushroom soup, in a tiny bowl.   I was truly excited about this meal…   The asparagus/scallop appetizer was what I looked forward to the most because I love scallops. We could not see or taste a scallop, and the dish was a cold mouse/gel aspic, with … More…

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La Dune Du Pilat

  We decided to take a day trip out to the Cote D’Argent on the West coast of France, to a place I had read few people know about – Arcachon Bay, known for it’s sand dunes, and huge waves.   The Bordeaux area we drove through was full of huge wineries, with broad expanses of grape fields and winery mansions in the distance. Later we entered a thick forest that went right to the water’s edge.   It was an easy drive once we got on the main highway with a speed limit 130 Km per hour, but it … More…

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House Sit: Cleaning The Chicken Coop

Today we cleaned out the chicken coop at our house sit in Clairac, France. Yup! Easy Peasy.  Only problem was that fat Old Momma Chicken would not move. She’s nesting again! So we had to work around “Ms. Precious”.   The other 3 chickens had already been let out in the early morning…   Pitchfork, rake, and wheelbarrow in hand we cleaned out the straw (covered in chicken crap) into the wheelbarrow, and tossed in some fresh straw, spreading it nicely around.   T is raking; I’m holding the wheelbarrow.   For city folk, I think we did a pretty … More…

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Our Favourite Bastille Town in S. France

  Our third visit to a Bastille town was to Sarlat-la-Caneda, a Bastille village dating back to the 9th Century, North of Toulouse, in the Dordogne region.   With Romanesque and Renaissance architectural buildings looming high overhead, it is a maze of narrow lanes, picturesque alleys and shady squares… The streets were so narrow we had to be careful not to scrape the rear-view mirrors of the car on the sides of the buildings….   The region is famous for Foie Gras, Truffles and Chocolate.    We wanted to try Foie Gras, but when we saw the prices of even a … More…

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Bastille Towns of Southern France

We’ve had no Internet access for the past week, not to mention that we’ve both had a cold/flu for nearly a week as well, so I’m a bit behind in our updates from Europe, but I’ll be posting more often now.   Before she left, our House-Sit Hostess drove us to a neighboring town to pick up an automatic transmission car. It is almost impossible to get an automatic transmission vehicle in Europe. You must beg and plead, and still they make no promises until you get there. With roundabouts every few kilometers in France, and plenty of hills, slowing … More…

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Double Probation: Update on House Sit in Southern France

This was a totally immersive and unexpected experience in the South of France. It was our first house sitting job and we thought it would be a fantastic way to experience the area first-hand, save money on hotels, as well as enjoy our favourite animals, the dogs.  Morning Dog Walk We’re house-sitting in the South of France. This morning T returned from taking the three dogs on their morning walk across the fields. He marched in loudly announcing, “Squeak is on double-probation! He saw a dog across the road and went racing across the field right on to the road. A … More…

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House Sitting in Southern France

  Our hostess for the house sit was a charming single woman with 3 dogs and 4 chickens.    The Property The property was a two-story house on a large, 4-5 acre, treed lot with flowers and shrubs, a pool, and it backed onto the famous River Lot. In short, a beautiful setting in the Aquitaine region of the South of France.   Our bedroom held a large white canopy bed and had a private bathroom. The weather was 23 and sunny. In short, it was lovely, and worth the train fiasco to get here.   Inside the house there … More…

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What You Need to Know About Europe’s Trains – Especially Lesson 4

To get to our house sitting assignment, near Toulouse, first we had to catch the hotel shuttle bus from the hotel to the Marseille Airport, next catch the big bus to Marseille, St. Charles Train Station, a 25 minute ride for 8E (12C) each, with a bus driver that liked to take corners at high speeds, rocking us into each other and tipping the top of the bus to near the sidewalk.     St. Charles Station was huge, but there was a nice view of Marseille’s Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde high on a hill, that is seen as the guardian of the … More…

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A Secret French Village

This time the waiter at the restaurant spoke English. He was actually from Ireland, travelled all over the world, and ended up in Southern France. He was very helpful when we asked what we could see that was close by, and suggested Vieux Village (Old Town), though most of Marignane and Vitrolles, he said, are industrial areas. He also mentioned a path behind our hotel leading down to the marsh where there are flamingoes and a beach.   We ordered coffee. Lesson One – coffee is a tiny cup of very strong espresso. They add water if you say Coffee … More…

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Half-Asleep, Half-Awake

Half-asleep, half-awake, over-stimulated in airports, under-stimulated on long flights, out-of-sorts, out-of-routine, off-keel, and off-base, much like when you wake up after surgery with the effects of heavy-duty drugs. In short,  jet lag.   And in this condition, you are expected to navigate new airports…   And take off your jacket, sweater, shoes, belts and jewelry, have your Boarding Pass and Passport ready at all times, and God Forbid if you should forget to put your liquids and gels in that clear plastic bag.       We had 3 flights to get to Marseilles, on 3 different airlines. Flights were all fine and … More…

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French Riviera – Get Packing

  In a few days we will be landing in Marseilles, France. It’s a little surreal that you can be on the French Riviera in Europe on the other side of the world in just one day, your whole environment completely changed in a few hours.   We are house sitting near Toulouse for a few weeks (4 dogs and 4 chickens), then driving down the picturesque coast of Southern France, then taking the train to magical Venice, Italy. Next we’ll drive through Slovenia and Croatia to the 16 cascading lakes at Plitvice Falls and back up the Croatian coast of … More…

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