A month of two halves**

October began with us loving being back in France, enjoying the sunshine and warmth, swimming in the sea and exploring the Cote dAzur in our little convertible car, Sylvie. It is ending with us back in lovely Cumbria, which is in full Autumn mode and “enjoying” typical autumnal weather…i.e. lots of rain! We have really experienced our two chosen homes to the full this month…but already, sadly, the sea and sunshine bit is fading in our memories! Ill start at the beginning though with us still in our little flat in St Aygulf.

We so enjoyed living in St Aygulf. We loved the flat, loved sitting on our balcony watching all the boats out at sea, loved shopping at the markets and all the small local shops, speaking French and generally immersing ourselves in French life and culture again. I got caught up with my beloved French soap opera (Plus Belle la Vie) on TV again…although some of the new characters remained a bit of a mystery! It was odd hearing the characters in all the English and American TV series, speaking fluent French again too! We also adapted to driving on the French roads with ease and had some lovely trips out as we explored the countryside around us and sampled different beaches for our daily swim. We visited villages in the hills such as Callian and Mons, marvelled at the construction and engineering of the Roman Aqueduct which started up there in the hills and ended in Frejus itself and also enjoyed a walk around swish Cannes looking at the famous Croisette with its handprints of the stars. We swam …well we tried to anyway (I found the sea a bit too rough for me) at the famous Pamplona beach near St Tropez. In fact, we swam at lots of different places along the beautiful coast, but always found our beach at St Aygulf to be the best both in the beach and the accessibility of the sea for swimming. One day we headed up to Mount Vinaigre and had a walk & a fabulous picnic with a view to die for over the coast and the countryside near Cannes. We visited Frejus several times, including one day when there was a “green” event throughout the town with stalls selling local produce and crafts, animals in pens in the streets and a vintage tractor parade. Great fun! The last weekend before we left was interesting, as Frejus and St Aygulf played host to a very prestigious mountain biking event (ROC Cote Azur) and suddenly the place filled up with people, bikes, motorhomes and all sort of flags, route markers and courses along the roads and coastal paths. We went to watch a bit of the very gruelling event which went along a bit of the coastal path near the flat and frankly we thought they were all bonkers to ride along that! It takes me all my time to walk it as it is very rough, teeters on the edge of the rocks and has very big steps at times. But it was interesting to watch. We had some lovely lunches out too and I managed (mostly) to keep to my diet! We met up with our friend Robin, who drove along from Antibes, where he was helping his pal who was taking part in the car rally there, and took him to one of our favourite eating places in Issambres. He loved the flat, and the beach, where we all went for a swim before he set off back to Antibes. All in all, we have decided that we have certainly chosen the right place for our holiday flat and we are already longing to go back.

We tried to address some of the things we need to sort out in the flat too. We had a painter and decorator visit, as the flat could do with a fresh lick of paint really, but when his devis (estimate) arrived we were so shocked at the price (€2,500 …just for the small salon &entrance hall) we have decided that that won`t happen any time soon! The electrician who visited did the typical French ouvrier thing of sucking in his breath and tutting at the old fuse box, which told us there and then that this was going to cost us! We need to get that box changed and also need some more electrical plug points in the flat. However, as he hasn’t sent his estimate yet (which we are expecting to be VERY expensive) we feel that we have time to save up a bit! We managed to get a very obliging plumber to call, just before we left and change the stopcock which was totally seized up and he also showed us how to turn off the water to the flat, so at least we were able to do that this time before we came home. He was a gem, arriving on a Saturday evening, doing the job very quickly and charging us €30! We will be using him again I can tell you! We also managed to buy a few bits and pieces we wanted for the flat including a small drawer unit for the kitchen and some decent cutlery. We still would like a new rug for the salon floor and a small table/unit to put the printer and laptop on but they can all wait…neither is that essential.

At least this time we were able to close the flat down properly and tuck the car, with its battery disconnected this time, into its snug and dry garage. Following this, our journey back to the UK went quite smoothly in the end. After a week or so of trying to make sense of the new entry rules for the UK…and in particular Scotland, where we were flying to and getting conflicting advice from everywhere, we decided to set off a bit earlier than planned on the day before we were due to fly, take the bus to Nice airport and check out the requirements directly from Easyjet. After a bit of a conflab, the guys on the check in desks said yes, you need an antigen test, so we had one done there & then in the airport. Happily, as we still have working Carte Vitales (health cover) we got the tests done for free…which is just as well as we didn`t need them after all! No one asked for them when we checked in, nor did anyone else in the queue have them…very annoying I can tell you! Anyway, after a lovely last night in Nice where we watched the sun set over the Promenade des Anglais and had a fabulous meal in old Nice town, we flew back to a very cold, wet Edinburgh the next day. We took the tram from the airport to Waverly Station (and froze due to this “great” rule that all the windows need to be open – if Covid doesn’t get you, pneumonia is a good second bet!) and caught our train back to Carlisle where we were met by our daughter and son in law, which was lovely. Back home, we completed the expensive 2-day Covid checks, which were negative. What a scam all this is!

Since then, we have been getting back into routine again. We have been slowly adjusting to the cold, wet weather and have given in to jumpers and winter togs…although Geoff is still insisting on wearing his shorts for his morning dog walks with Xena…who incidentally was deliriously happy to see him again! I am back working in the Op Shop and am still loving it. They said they had missed me, which was nice! We have resumed our Wednesday date day lunches again, although as the weather hasnt been good, we havent gone very far. We had a fab lunch at Upfront Gallery (one of our favourite places) one week and last week we just ate in Carlisle, as it was pouring. We ate at Mezzaluna, a really good Italian restaurant where our lovely neighbour Cosmina works, and afterwards went to see the new James Bond movie…a very rare thing for us, going to the cinema! I`m not a fan of James Bond, so was not that thrilled by the film, but Geoff enjoyed it. I am looking forward to making him sit through my choice of film (probably a cheesy RomCom) at some point in the future in retribution! We also went to a Taste of Cumbria event in Wigton one Saturday which we both enjoyed. It was a shame though, that a lot of the “tastes” did not entirely fit into my diet! We drove to Windermere too, one day, to collect the beautiful photograph we bought before going away, at an exhibition at Brockholes. It now is looking resplendent on our kitchen wall in the flat. Linda and I have recommenced our swimming sessions again at Dalston which is great…but somehow its not the same as swimming in the Med!

I had a nice surprise when I went for my latest eye clinic appointment last week when I was told that my eye condition had improved greatly and I didn`t need injections this time! Wonderful news! Maybe it was the French air and swimming in the sea which did that…perhaps we should go back now then?!

And so, its on into November now. The clocks went back last night (I always hate that) and we have Halloween tonight, which we are planning to spend at Hazel and Phils house, to prevent Phil getting grumpy with any children who dare to knock at his door! I have my witch’s hat and broomstick ready to deal with him! We did get some kids at the flat door last night which took us completely by surprise…poor souls they had to do with Kit-Kats as I of course dont have any sweeties here now.

We dont have many plans in store for November as yet, but Im sure something will turn up. I might even book us a night away somewhere to help counteract the dark nights and withdrawal symptoms from missing France and breakfast on my lovely balcony…we will see how the month progresses. Anyway for now its…

A bientot mes amis


It sounds as though you haven’t been too badly affected by the appalling weather which is hitting your corner of the country.
I hope so and that all is well.
Beautiful sunny day here, but the light wind has an edge to it now.
We had our 'flu jabs on Friday and we are both feeling not well afterwards. This is the first time that we have felt not well after this jab.
I hope all is well in the North West.

We have certainly had a lot of rain but no flooding in Carlisle this time. The rivers have gone from trickles to torrents in a very short period of time. We are getting our flu jabs on friday…I`m not a great believer in them to be honest unless you have a respiritory problem but we get nagged by everyone!