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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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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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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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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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The Gilligans’ Island Experience

Internet Hut: After receiving 3 or 4 completely different directions for getting to the only Internet access on Little Corn Island, we traipsed through the jungle to the East side of the island and after ten minutes came to a tiny Gilligan Island style hut with two old computers. We paid $12 an hour to use the computer. It was a necessity at the time, because we were selling a house. Many other times we walked across the island through the jungle only to find it closed, or the Internet down.   The setting at the Internet hut was a … More…

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Bad To The Bone and Tall Boy

  It was another warm sunny day, and we were down for breakfast at the Lobster Inn on Little Corn Island. Everyone was friendly and chatting, including the staff and locals.   One of the staff, the owner’s niece, tells us that there was a big fire on Big Corn Island last night. Two people died and it looked like the people may have been tied-up.   The next thing we know local police and several army men carrying machine guns are standing at the doorway of the restaurant. Two of the men are wearing black balaclavas. Everyone in the restaurant looks shocked … More…

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Someone Stole My Shoes!

  We couldn’t take enough pictures of the demure children of Little Corn Island.   One morning when we walked past the school on the path through the jungle to the centre of the island, we took some photos of the school children on a break.   We stopped to talk to the teacher. He said that they desperately needed new buildings, classrooms, computers for the school, and so on. Later we found out that teachers only make $120 per month on the island. It was sad that the school lacked a lot of supplies, and we vowed to gather … More…

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Bags of Money Floating On The Ocean

  Someone told us that bags of money and/or drugs have been found floating in the ocean around Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.   Drug dealers on the ocean might see another boat, perhaps a police/army boat, get scared of getting caught and quickly dump the drugs or money overboard.   When we asked what people who found such bags did with the cache, no one would answer.   So guess what we did the next few days?! Of course. We went to the virgin west side of the island to spend the day at the beach, eyes peeled intently for … More…

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Little Corn Island – No Cars, No Roads, No Worries

At last! Big Corn Island disappeared far off in the distance. No more threatening thugs, no more loud music, no more hurtling cars – just crystal clear blue water, soft sand, and the sweet sweet quiet of Little Corn Island.   That’s right – there are no roads on Little Corn Island, and no cars.   A taxi driver on Big Corn had recommended we stay at the Lobster Inn, instead of Los Dolphines, so we were delighted to meet Momma Cornelia, and negotiate a rate of $15 per night, rather than $20. http://littlecornisland.net/accomodation/     We were right on the … More…

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Valentine’s Day On A Dangerous Island

  We didn’t want to go to crime-and-drug-ridden Big Corn Island but we had no choice. It was the only way to get to gorgeous Little Corn Island on the virtually unknown Caribbean side of Nicaragua.   First we had to fly from Managua to Big Corn Island, then take a small boat to Little Corn.    We had contemplated a long river boat trip down the rivers across Nicaragua to the Caribbean side, but it was across vast uninhabited parts of Nicaragua, and it looked like a rough week-long voyage.     Taking the local bus from Rivas back to Managua for … More…

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A Free Luxurious Villa

  We had been offered an opportunity to stay at  a new upscale development of villas on the Pacific coast near Rivas, Southern Nicaragua, for a free luxurious weekend. Rancho Santana was spread over 2700 acres on the rocky Pacific coastline with 5 beaches.  The homes were for sale of course, and they hoped, by offering a free stay, you might invest in a vacation/residential home.   After a pleasant drive by taxi through the countryside from Granada to Rivas…     We arrived at Rancho Santana…     It was brand new, sparkling clean and quite modern… a huge contrast from our … More…

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No Food, No Water, No Phone

  It was hard to leave charming and colonial Granada. After playing like children on an uninhabited island, being amazed on our walk in the cloud rain forest and screaming through an invigorating zip line across the top of the Nicaraguan jungle, it was hard to imagine that anything could beat those experiences.   But we had this idea that we should check out off-the-beaten-path San Juan del Sur, where Playa Gigante was known as the most beautiful beach in Nicaragua. The not-so-friendly taxi driver said it would only be about $10 to get to the Bahia Majagual Eco-Lodge, which was billed … More…

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Flying Across Jungle Treetops

  While we were still enjoying the lovely town and relaxing atmosphere of Granada, Nicaragua, we wanted to see the Volcano Mombacho, still active we had been told, as well as the cloud forest in the mountains and to experience the jungle zip line.   We were both a little worried about the zip line and whether we could manage climbing a makeshift ladder, 100 metres up a tree! But embarrassed to admit it, we bought the tour and determined to try.   Both tours were private tours with only the tour guides and the two of us. Nice.   First … More…

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ALONE On A Deserted Island

  After missed and delayed flights, and a cramped old hotel in Managua, arriving in Granada was a delightful surprise.     It was a pretty town with a gorgeous town square featuring a huge pink and white gazebo, food vendors selling all kinds of snacks and sweets, vendors selling jewelry and hats and balloons, children playing, adults chatting, and everyone just enjoying the splendid sunshine. We spent almost every evening sitting in the town square waiting for the birds to start chirping and sweeping across the square as they nestled into the trees for the night.   The Hotel Alhambra, a … More…

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Stomping Your Feet Does Not Help

  It started with a comedy of errors. Freezing rain cancelled our flight out of Toronto to Nicaragua so there were 40-minute line-ups at the pay phones just to try to re-schedule. T was relatively new at “travel glitches” and was wringing his hands in anxiety. After many years of travel I was used to flight delays, but this long forty-minute wait was getting to me too.        We finally gave it up and suddenly found direct line phones where we quickly got re-scheduled on a flight the next morning. Then it was back to the hotel overnight.   … More…

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