Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Saturday 18 August 2007 We set off in good time but it wasn’t long before the snarl ups started, a spate of minor accidents caused major queues. Overall it took us about eight and a half hours to travel 400 miles to Dion. In the future I will do whatever I can to avoid traveling on Saturdays. We intend to leave early in the morning hoping to catch the 16:00 ferry from Calais. Another 350 mile drive – let’s just hope the traffic is better.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Friday 17 August 2007 It’s that time in the holiday we all dread. You know you should be making the most of your last hours in the sun but there are those annoying things to do. We spent the best part of the day around the pool but then had to return the hired bikes. Thomas and I volunteered for this task. On arrival back at the chalet we realized that we had left the key at the pool. Some of the windows were partially open but locked on a latch. About two minutes later with the aid of a couple of sticks the kitchen window was open. We had even managed to gather a small crowd of nosey onlookers. Next we had to get Hannah’s bike into the boot of the car – not a problem except I then managed to lock the car keys in the boot. Fortunately we had a spare key……. After rescuing the key we drove into Canet where we double parked in traditional French style and returned the bike with no further hitches. The fact that we could of bought a bike for what I paid in rental is no problem at all, doesn’t annoy me at all… The kids want me to get a bike rack to bring their own bikes next year, maybe we should go the whole hog and buy a bloody caravan… not likely. We plan to leave at around 10:00 in the morning and drive to Dijon – hopefully this will be an uneventful trip. Just hope we don’t get stuck behind any caravans with bike racks!!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Thursday 16 August The weather forecast was not brilliant so we got up early and headed into the Pyrenees. Destination, the ancient fortified town of Mount-Louis an early French attempt to keep the Spanish out. The main reason for the trip was to visit the ‘solar furnace’. I won’t go into the technicalities but this consists of a load of mirrors which track the sun and focus the suns power enough to burn holes in lumps of metal. Bizarrely this energy is used to power a kiln in which they fire clay pots made on site. Anyway it is all very impressive, it just felt like it was in someone’s back garden. The 45 minute guided tour was also very interesting especially as every word of it was French. It was of particular interest when our charming tour guide asked Mrs L a question – she shrugged her shoulders and we all sneaked out through the back door at the next opportunity. The drive to Mont-Louis was truly spectacular – winding roads snaking through the Pyrenees.
Wednesday 15 August Well not even busy really. We went to the pool with the intention of going to the beach later. It’s funny how doing nothing really tires you out as we didn’t have the energy for the five minute trek to the beach. The natives have been celebrating here today. They had a big procession around the site with African drums, dancing girls and loads of kids holding red and yellow balloons. There was also the threat of a big party this evening but fortunately we managed to avoid it!! It’s strange how you pick up new tricks when you are away. I can now ride the bike one handed with French bagauettes under my arm. To really blend in I need to perfect it with a small dog under the other arm and a Gaulloise in my mouth.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tuesday 14 August 2007 A quiet day on the beach today – the highlight was probably building a monster in the sand with the kids. It certainly kept them occupied for a few hours. In the evening we again went into Canet on the little ferry but it was much busier than the previous evening. It turned out that there was some sort of local celebration but I am not sure what. I do know that the 15th is a public holiday. In the harbour they had set up a temporary stage and there was some French crooner wailing to backing tracks – not my cup of tea! As we left a firework display started and we watched some of it. What amazed me again was the way the French take their dogs with them to watch. We have always been told to lock up the animals on firework night. The poor creatures must have been traumatized.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Monday 13 August 2007 We had our first day at the pool today. It is really nice but gets very busy it is also a bit of a sun trap. As you enter the pool area there are signs with lists of rules. The difference here is the rules are enforced any slight misdemeanor and you are escorted out of the pool area. As a parent this enforcement is quite reassuring although it must be tedious for some of the youngsters. We witnessed a group of lads messing around at the pool side; one of the lifeguards went over and said something to them. They then picked him up and threw him in – needless to say they were all shown the exit!! In the evening we ventured into Canet Town, catching the little ferry across the harbour. Along the seafront they have a nightly market – similar to tourist markets the world over. Loads of dodgy dealers, selling cheap crap rubbish to tourists with holiday money burning holes in their pockets. We of course did not get sucked in at all, we purchased only quality items from the more reputable, ‘arty’ stalls!!
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Sunday 12 August 2007 Last night’s entertainment was pretty much as expected. It was a Reggae band or should have been but appeared to have been through the Euro filter – resulting in Euro Reggae. Not to be recommended, amazing how they take a good tune a good beat and turn it into utter dirge. A nice morning again so we headed off to the beach. The French fascination with their dogs amazes me. Today we witnessed a family carefully put their little pet into a rubber dinghy so the kids could take it for a little cruise. They then dropped the poor little mutt, still attached to its lead, into the sea for a little swim. On arrival back at the shore ‘Papa’ carried it to shore passing it to ‘Mama’ who was waiting with a towel to dry and cuddle the poor thing! If the salt water left it feeling dirty – no problem we have an onsite Dog Shower!
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Saturday 11 August 2007 Totally uneventful day, Thomas’ turn not to sleep last night so he got up early and went to the beach to take sunrise photos. We went to Carrefour to ‘stock up’ and spent the rest of the day on the beach. You realise when the sun shines that you really do not need much in the way of entertainment. We cooked a typical English meal tonight of curry and rice and have promised to take Hannah to the entertainment. This, if anything like last year will be a terrible cabaret of entertainment – a combination of Eurotrash and the Eurovision song contest. Makes me proud not to be European!!
Friday, August 10, 2007
Friday 10 August 2007 Archery, the French teaching the Brits archery actually. Thomas thought it would be good for us to go to the free onsite archery lessons. I knowingly nodded along to what our French instructor was saying – assuming it couldn’t be too difficult. I did manage to hit the target in spite of the gale force crosswind but I was more consistent in ‘twanging’ my arm with the bow string. The more I did it the worse it got until I had to retire – injured. We spent the rest the rest of the day in Aqualand, a water park in St.Cyprien a 15 minute drive away. The kids had a great time but as the day progressed it got busier and busier. It gave us the opportunity to observe different nationalities queuing habits – or lack of should I say. I won’t say who is the worst but this is one sport we are good at!! In the evening I challenged Thomas to take a photo of a fish jumping out of the River Tet – I don’t know what type of fish they are but they do a sort of ‘Salmon’ impression. Anyway Thomas and his chums disappeared on their bikes and returned about half an hour later jubilant. I had bet him 20 Euro that he couldn’t get the picture but I lost.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Thursday 09 August 2007 A sleepless night for me – got up at around 04:00 and read then decided to go down to the beach with my camera. Sunrise happened at around 06:45 and was pretty spectacular – as soon as the first rays appeared the heat was amazing. I walked back along the river which was as calm as a mill pond, saw some fish jumping – not sure what type but they looked pretty big. Later it was all off to the beach for the day taking with us our newly acquired windbreak – one of those fancy ones that looks like half a tent. In reality it was about as much use as half a tent or though I am reliably informed that the wind got up to 18MPH today. Concerned about the sleep problem so have decicded to self medicate. There is a wine shop on site that will fill any receptacle with the wine of your choice. I took three empty 1.5L water bottles and got them filled up with the local Rose – all for under 10 Euros.
Wednesday 08 August 2007 It’s wet, worse than that, it’s cold – the rain has continued all night and looks to have set in for the day. Along the row of chalets you can see expectant faces checking for any sign of improvement. In our accommodation SAD has set in and we (the adults anyway) decide that we will never return to France. The wet weather contingency plan involves a trip to the aquarium in Canet town and we cannot park in our normal car park. Probably because everyone else in the South of France is doing the same. We finally manage to find a space in a car park at the other end of the resort. As we walk in the weather is clearing and we pass another bike hire shop. The aquarium killed an hour – it was so busy it seemed like the fish were looking at us. It was ok but nothing compared to others we have been to. It didn’t have the usual French feature where the Café serves ‘the cast’. I was rather looking forward to grilled sardines. The sun is out!! We walk up the prom and into the bike hire shop, they find a bike for Hannah, actually a tatty old boys BMX but she is happy. A beer in a seafront café – can’t be bad. Weather fantastic, food brilliant, kids happy – France next year? Who knows….
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Tuesday 07 August 2007 English Weather Day 2 We decided last night that if the weather was not good we would go to Villefrance De Conflent – a walled town the earliest parts built in 1092. As you have now guessed the weather was not brilliant so we set off to Villefranche. The drive, about 40 miles, pretty much follows the course of the River Tet out through Perpignan and into the Pyrenees. I mention the River Tet as the river reaches the sea very close to our site, the site in fact is a triangular shape bordered by the River Tet and the Med. On arrival at Villefranche it was still raining but being well prepared Brits we donned kagouls and put up our umbrellas, much to the dismay of Mrs L who really does not like the ‘pac-a-mac’ look. As I said earlier they started building this town in 1092 – hopefully when they finish it they will include some toilets. The lack of public conveniences is more noticeable because everywhere you look there is running water, mountain streams, open rainwater drainage… get the picture? Fortunately the rain stopped giving us the opportunity to try out some of the specialities on offer at the bakery. Apricot tart, aniseed bread and some strange concoction that was like a cross between pancakes and a dohnuts. Very nice but in culinary terms the French have a lot to learn – Bramley apple pie, Rhubarb crumble and Gypsy tart. I rest my case. On the way back we stopped at a roadside stall and bought a tray of fresh peaches for 5 Euros. The good news is that it appears to have stopped raining.
Monday 06 August 2007 English Weather I mentioned that Hannah was nearly happy, this is because most of the kids here have their bikes. I agreed that we would try and hire one for her but it has not been possible. Unfortunately for her she is an awkward size somewhere in between child and adult. We managed to get Thomas a bike from the reception at the camp but this is too big for Hannah. We went to a little bike shop in Canet and attempted to hire one but the conversation was near impossible due to my lack of French and the patrons sparse knowledge of English. Fact, ordering beers in French is much simpler than hiring a bike!! ….and then it started to rain!!
Sunday 05 August 2007 Sunday Closing. Thomas and I drove out to Carreforr to pick up some provisions – unfortunately it was closed. Sunday closing seems a strange concept now. We drove back into Canet and noticed the Casino supermarket was open. The only problem was that every holiday maker in the region was also there. After a fraught hour or so we made it back. After enjoying a meal at the resturaunt on site we met a nice couple from Ashford and spent the evening together tasting the local wines, sharing stories of the awful journey. It turns out that they came through the tunnel and were delayed for five hours before they even reached France. Fortunately for us they have a daughter a little bit younger than us so Hannah is happy – well nearly.
Saturday 04 August 2007 Bloody traffic After a very pleasant night in the Novatel we woke at around nine had a leisurely breakfast and checked out by 11:00. I say pleasant but this wasn’t quite the case for Hazel, the waitress opening the evening’s bottle of red managed to spatter her white top – we managed to negotiate a free bottle so it wasn’t all bad. The plan was to arrive at Canet shortly after 3pm. We drove through Lyon alongside the Rhone and all appeared to be going well until the traffic slowed into our first traffic jam of the day. We hoped that soon we would see the reason for the delay but this wasn’t to be the case. Sadly the problem was sheer volume of traffic and any minor incident would cause a massive delay. The first hundred miles took us four hours. The next two hundred were not much better!! Shortly after the Montpelier toll we noticed smoke in the distance, a helicopter hovering and no traffic in the opposite direction. As we got closer it was obvious that areas of forest were on fire, fortunately for us our section of road was still open. Not so fortunate for those heading in the other direction, for them the road was closed with no escape the tailback stretching for probably 10 miles. We finally arrived at 21:00 to find the onsite shop closed – a quick dash to Carreforr solved the immediate wine and beer problem and the kids went and got us takeaway pizza.
Friday 03 August 2007 Good going. 05:30 start and a beautiful bright red sunrise which I attempted to capture in my pic but thought I really ought to get on with the jobs in hand. 06:55 left home – by 09:30 (now 10:30 French time) we were driving out of Calais docks. I would recommend club plus priority loading which pretty much means you are first on and first off the ferry with entrance into the club lounge.. A long drive, hardly heard a peep from the kids who either slept or entertained themselves with their Archos media players. I wish I could say the same for Hazel who didn’t sleep or entertain herself!! She did however entertain me with a running commentary on the driving styles of the French! A notable example is ‘Nicole’ who hurtles up the fast lane in her little Clio presumably trying to get home before ‘Papa’. 466 miles and two stops later we arrive at the Novatel in Lyon at 18:00
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This is a test to check it's working before we leave.