Ragtag Tuesday: Driving. England; France; Spain. What a contrast!

We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain.  2,715 miles on the clock.  The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.

This morning near the Blackwall Tunnel, London.

I’m not being entirely fair.  We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.

RN 20 near Pamiers, France.

What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas.  I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings.  Even these can be havens of peace though.  Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze.  Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities.  But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.

Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough.  Outside space is strictly for parking in.  Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course.  But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north.  It would have made so much difference.

Today’s Ragtag challenge is ‘Contrast’.

PS.  I arrived home to some good news from the Police in Barcelona.  They have recovered certain items following last week’s thefts.  I still don’t know what.  Watch this space!

The road north……

We left Barcelona.

Past Monserrat….

We drove north through the Pyrenees, both in Spain and in France…..

Used the mirrors to glance back and back till we could no longer see the mountains……

Through the edge of the Lauragais, south of Toulouse…..

….reaching Cahors by the evening.

Much of the next day was spent in the flatlands of central France, in the Touraine…..

And now we’re with friends in Normandy, on the border of both Mayenne and Manche.

Which landscape would you choose?

Ragtag Tuesday: Migration difficulties

We’ve been on the move since my last post: firstly to friends near Laroque, then to Emily and Miquel in Barcelona.  England – France – Spain – France and back to England again: passports required to get out of and back into England.

The trouble is, returning to England may prove tricky.  No passports.

The first thing we did in Barcelona was to go and meet Emily and Miquel from their flight from Seville.  I left Malcolm while I went to link up with them.  A man wheeling a luggage trolley veered into the car, and so Malcolm jumped out to have words with him.

We were duped.  As he did that, Luggage Trolley Man’s accomplice whipped my handbag out of the car.  So …. no handbag, no purse, no credit cards, no camera with some 140 shots on it, some of which I wanted to share with you,  no keys and NO PASSPORTS.

Thanks to Emily and Miquel, we’ve reported the whole thing to the Police, and since then we’ve applied online to the British Consulate for emergency travel documents. We’ve done every single piece of work towards getting these, and for a single-use piece of paper, we’ve been charged £100 each.  New passports will be £75 each.  Temporary migration for us was incredibly easy.  Immigration – less so.

All the same, we’re having a high old time.  We are neither political nor economic migrants.  We need to keep things in perspective, and put it down to experience.

This week’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘migration’.

Ragtag Tuesday: Crepuscule in Corrèze

As we say goodbye to Corrèze for now, it seems fitting that the Ragtag word for today is ‘crepuscule.  It means twilight, and I always thought of it as an evening word.  But it can mean dawn as well.  So was this photo, taken from Sharon and Andrew’s house, and home to us for a week, taken in the morning or the evening?  What’s your guess?

 

A scrapbook from the Corrèze

I was going to write a final post from the town, the region where we have been so happy this week, just taking life s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’ve decided though to let a few pictures do the talking.  Landcapes, townscapes, doors…. whatever took my eye, in no particular order.  Best come and visit for yourselves, I think.

 

Click on any image to view full size.

The cat that has eight lives

We were just getting back from our evening walk with Mortimer.  We’d already had a run in with Jacques the donkey.  Well, Mortimer had – he doesn’t seem to like him.  And now Jacques doesn’t like Mortimer.  As you can see.

On the home stretch, I glanced up.  Look at this cat.  Yes, the horizontal band running between the ground and first floors of this building is as narrow as you think it is.

The cat picked its way delicately forward until it came to the corner.  Now what?  It peered cautiously forward – the next building along was too far away.  It peered even more cautiously backwards, and nearly tumbled.  It thought hard.

Finally, and with infinite care, it walked, step by anxious step, backwards to the balcony where it had started its unwise adventure.  Another cat was hovering there.  Cheering?  Admonishing?  Getting a stiff whisky ready?  Who knows.

I don’t think this feline road show will be repeated tomorrow.

And Mortimer?  He hadn’t a clue why his evening walk had ground to an abrupt halt for ten minutes or so.  Just further evidence that his dog sitters, though amiable enough he supposes, are barking mad.

It takes a village to raise a loaf

A poster like this is irresistible:

A spot of history, a spot of lunch, a new village to explore …. had to be done.

Orliac-de-Bar is only a few miles from here.  Like so many others in the area, it has a little building, the village oven, built once upon a time to bake the loaves of those villagers who had no oven of their own.  These days, when everybody uses the boulangerie or a bread-making machine, they’re generally dusted down and used only on high days and holidays

We arrived as the oven was getting going.  As visitors from afar, the organisers seized on us, anxious to show off their little bit of village history.  A couple of men  thrust bundle after bundle of brushwood into the glowing maw of the oven.  When the oven was judged to be hot enough, the woody embers were swept out, and the oven allowed to cool – just a little.

Our new friends popped an ear of wheat into a wooden clasp and introduce it into the heat.  It singed.  Nope.  The oven was still too hot.  The wheat should be burnished gold, not burnt.  Try again soon…..

 

Eventually the oven was pronounced to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right.  A small team of villagers  jammed pizzas (that well known French country delicacy?) and apple tarts  into the oven to be baked.

An oven filled with good things.

Twenty minutes later we were sitting down at long refectory tables arranged in the village square, doing what the French do best: sharing food, wine and conversation.  No photos.  I was too busy enjoying myself, and never gave it a thought.

Pizz and apple tart.

The village also had an exhibition of aspects of its history.  Here are some photos of a not-so-long-departed way of life.  I think they need no explanation.

 

And here are our new-found friends, waving us off after a day well spent.

Goodbye, Orliac-de-Bar!

Back at home, we had a fine solid Orliac-baked loaf to accompany our cheese and salad.

Click on any photo to view full size, and see the captions.