Monday, 30 July 2012

Days 233 to 234: Francefest 2012 – Nimes and Montpelliers

We didn’t visit Nimes by design; rather, the absolute unavailability of accommodation in Avignon – due to its major arts festival - forced our hand. Nimes being less than an hour away, and by all accounts not an unpleasant place, we thought it would make a convenient base to explore Avignon. In the end, it became an even more convenient base simply to explore Nimes.

My favourite fact about Nimes is one Justin told me – it’s where denim comes from: “De Nimes”. Denim is probably the world’s foremost fabric, having become pretty much part of every echelon of life. I read a report once from someone who had sat in coffeeshops around the world and counted the people walking by, totting up the percentage that were wearing jeans. Tough job. It came to over 50% everywhere in the world he went. I like denim because you can wear jeans for many days and it seems to cope with spillages; also it deals with fading so well it’s designed to look faded. The ultimate lazy garment that somehow has become fashionable: that’s my sort of trouser.

Friday, 27 July 2012

24. Wonder: The Millau Viaduct

(For the Millau Viaduct preview, please click here.)

Days 230 to 232: Francefest 2012 – Albi, Millau, and Avignon

There was a Rip Van Winkle-esque feeling to our days in Morlaas, chomping on duck hearts and supping fine wine, but we escaped the sunny haze of indolence only two days older, not twenty years. From Morlaas to Millau, it was due to be our longest day of driving, around five hours uninterrupted or a few more if we took some leisurely breaks.Leisurely breaks being one of the over-riding themes of the trip, we naturally took this option, and the majority of our leisure time was spent at the town of Albi.

Albi had come recommended to us by Claire’s father, both because it was directly en route and because the cathedral was supposed to be nice. We first stopped for lunch at an out-of-town shopping centre, and crazily almost continued with the drive: there was a long way to go and we wanted to crack on. The decision to pop into the  town we were already in was a very lackadaisical one – eight people had no strong opinion, and I reckoned, hell, why not? So, hell, why not, we popped in.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

23. Wonder: Carcassonne

(For the Carcassonne preview, please click here.)


Days 226 to 230: Francefest 2012 – Carcassonne and Morlaas

After Toulouse, our first stop was Carcassonne. Because of Bastille Day – which is a big deal in Carcassonne – accommodation had been hard to come by, even months ago when it had been booked. Fortunately, camping had always been on the agenda, and a campsite was found about ten minutes drive away. The day was what is known in official circles as a “roastbox”, hitting figures we in northern Scotland are wholly unfamiliar with, and we timed our arrival just as the campsite owners were out on their daily 3-hour lunch. We found whatever meagre shade we could.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Days 224 & 225: Francefest 2012 – Days 1 & 2: Toulouse

Our meeting point for the holiday was the city of Toulouse.

Toulouse set the trend for towns and cities we visited during the holiday – I knew very little about it beforehand, but it turned out to have a charming historic town centre that we ate lots of food and drank lots of wine in. Danielle and I were the first of our group of nine to arrive, closely followed by Kitchen Mark and French Claire, who were already in France and had been at Claire’s family home. We sat outside a local Moroccan restaurant, ate some cous cous and drank some wine, and said “This place is full of mentalists, isn’t it?”

Days 224 to 235: Francefest 2012 – Introduction

For the last twelve days or so, I was in France, the south of France to be precise. Or to be more precise, I was in these places: Toulouse, Carcassonne, Morlaas, Pau, Albi, Millau, Avignon, Nimes, and Montpellier.

Google Maps may be of assistance.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The South of France

Tomorrow, I am going to the south of France for ten days, with a collection of people (friends, for want of a better word). We will be visiting three Wonders:

- Carcassonne
- The Millau Viaduct
- The Palace of the Popes at Avignon

As well as the above, we will be visiting towns and cities such as Toulouse, Montpelliers, Pau, and Nimes, and will we watching some of the Tour de France go by. I'm pretty sure some Unofficial Wonders will crop up, not least the Pont du Gard. We will be staying in cheap hotels, camping, and with a real live French family. Food will be eaten, and I'm guessing quite a lot of it.

But mostly, we will be drinking wine. And because of that, I doubt I'll write much, if anything, before I get back.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Preview: The Millau Viaduct

Gustave Eiffel is a name you might be familiar with. Perhaps not with the person, but with his most famous creation, a certain tower in Paris. He also had a large hand in the construction of the Statue of Liberty, but primarily was a builder of bridges, and was behind countless in France, Europe, and as far afield as Peru and the Philippines. Eiffel ran a construction company, and this company far outlived his death in 1923, and in the natural evolution of companies it grew and also merged with others, becoming a group called Eiffage in 1992. This group has continued Eiffel's legacy of iconic constructions, and was behind the French side of the Channel Tunnel as well as the Louvre Pyramid, not to mention a huge number of other projects, roads, and railways. But they haven't forgotten how to build a bridge, and in 2004 they completed what may be one of the very best of them - the Millau Viaduct.