Thursday, 31 May 2012

JB rides up Mont Ventoux

It was a shocking day in Provence so the full biking programme was abandoned. However, I did take the opportunity to ride to the top of Mont Ventoux, one of the infamous mountain stages of the Tour de France. It was very misty and at the top it was snowing. And this in an area that normally experiences temps in the 30s plus!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Rainy Day in Provence

No cycling today...too windy and then rain.

The group therefore went via van to I'sle-sur-la Sorgue. This is a town where the river Sorgue (the one we visited the source of) creates a virtual island in the middle of the town.

The surrounding streets are full of markets, restaurants and quirky bric a brac and antique stores. Returned to our accommodation... and swim and decided to rest up a little before making our own tea tonight which will be fun.
Tomorrow was to be the most exciting planned for Jeff as we were to cycle on Mont Ventoux. However, rain and terribly cold conditions forecast. Then it is off to Paris and the final leg of our journey. Back to the big city life again.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Around Collioure - more from Jeff Bailey's trip

Now we understand why Gail and Maurice Trapp love this Collioure so much. What a beautiful, lovely place It is a haven for local artists who produce some good work often in quite bright colours.

They say that Collioure is one of the best places for artists due to the quality of the light and colour of the water. It is great at this time of year...not too busy and very relaxing. Great sights for photography, art shops and plenty of bars and restaurants.

Started by visiting the Museum of Modern Art which disappointed due to the lack of work on display. From there we started walking uphill to a windmill which is clearly evident from the town and then to the top of the hill above Collioure to a reworked Fortress (Saint Elme) used to defend the Spanish / France frontier in past eras.

Because it was such a fantastic day, weather wise, we decided to walk down to the next harbour, a fishing port called Port Vendres. Then it was back up the hill and a walk around the bays back to Collioure. Absolutely stunning views of the Mediterranean!

The surrounding areas are covered with terraced vineyards, which reminded us of Cinque Terre in Italy. Apparently, this area is the largest wine producing area of France, but not of the quality wines we know about such as Burgundy etc.

On arrival back into town we headed straight to a bar for a beer to quench our thirsts. This area has a strong rugby connection as it is close to Perpignan. The barman was very emotional when talking about the subject and they all love Dan Carter who played for their team. He just had to mention that Dan Carter had eaten at his restaurant!

Dinner was fantastic. From a tiny little restaurant just metres away from our apartment. We were going to make our own but the smells coming from this pace were so good we flagged the idea. We all had the chicken with African / Moroccan flavours. Jeff had cold beetroot, ginger and orange soup. Delicious.

Tomorrow we are off to Figueres and Cadeques for some culture. First stop is the museum for some of Salvador Dali's works. Then to another small and beautiful place called Cadeques.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Pyrenees - Cirque de Gavarnie

A foggy day which was a pity as we we're off to explore a rather spectacular part of the Pyrennes called the Cirque de Gavarnie. It was still relatively warm but the overcast conditions made for difficult photography and causes exposure problems. Hence the photos don't do justice to the panorama that the eyes can take in.

 The walk to the highest viewpoint was easy by NZ standards but provided magnificent views, new spring flowers, new green tree growth, thunderous waterfalls and rushing rivers as well as the odd avalanche or two.

We had hoped to hire bikes and ride to the top but, alas, the road was closed due to slips and rocks covering the road.

The round trip took about three hours and was well worth the time. Then it was off to Bareges which is a ski resort village about half way up the Col de Tourmalet, the mountain pass ride that is one of the most challenging in the Tour de France cycle race.

Dropped into a couple of small villages and as usual the girls found things to buy. Dinner was again at the hotel and of excellent quality.


More about the region from our older post

Friday, 25 May 2012

La Rioja (wine country) - Jeff Bailey IX

Vicki talking from Spain...

Set off after breakfast to look at a couple of towns, one being an old medieval one with a castle. Jeff loves castles. We think we saw at least one inhabitant lurking in the shadows. A big change from the city life we have been used to. Also, found a monastery built in 1524 which still has seven nuns living there. The church had great acoustics.

However, today was all about exploring La Rioja wine country. Jeff was quite disappointed in the way they provide for tourists wanting to experience the wines of the region. In my view, the Spanish are not maximizing their opportunities that tourism should provide. You mostly have to book ahead for a wine tour of a winery which costs a lot and takes a long time and yet only provides a tasting of one two of their wines. It is that, or you have to purchase a full glass of wine. This, of course, only works if you can find any of them open.

The Spanish businesses are often closed during the main part of each day. However, we did find one that provided a selection of several wines but then left you to it with the tasting notes. One thing we did realize is that there are a lot of wineries (Bodegas) and some very large ones. So, we spent a lot of time trying to find wineries that we could taste at, but little testing going on.

Did call into a hotel and winery that was designed by Frank Gehry - the same bloke who designed the Guggenheim in Bilbao. You can see the similarities.

Dinner was Jeff and Diane's treat from Maria, our hostess. She did very well and even provided a birthday cake. The duck was especially delicious.

More delights from La Rioja...