Sea, Sunshine …& a bit of Scary Stuff

Its not often, living in the Auvergne, that I can write about the sea! We are a long way from the sea really which both of us find hard at times, as we miss it. That is one of the reasons we enjoy our cruise holidays so much…a whole week (more this year) surrounded by the sea! We are adjusting back into our land lubber existence again now though, having returned from holiday on Monday. We had a wonderful cruise this year & visited some new & very exciting places which we really enjoyed. The cruise was one of the “neo” ones which concentrate on going really slowly & having lots of time in the ports so you can explore at your own pace & this suited us very much. We had an overnight stop in Barcelona which enabled us to experience the city at night, lots of time in Valletta which we loved & were able to take a ferry boat along the Amalfi coast which was so beautiful. The day we spent in Genoa also was pretty mind blowing as we hadn't realised what a beautiful & interesting place Genoa was. We did spend 3 whole days at sea too, which we had worried about as there is often not a lot to do on these ships, but because the weather was so good we were able to lie in the sun, sit in the Jacuzzis & swim (well until they decided to renovate the pool :( ) so we were very happy to just relax & recharge the batteries a bit on those days. So all in all a good time was had & I am really finding it hard now to get used to making meals, making my own bed, having to clean & wash clothes again! I like being spoiled really!

Our trip down to the port of Toulon was an interesting experience too as Geoff has become a fan of co-voiturage (Blablacars in particular) & so we had 2 passengers who we picked up & dropped off en route! Unfortunately one of them was a semi professional footballer & the other was a great footie fan so the “interesting conversation” I had been promised turned out to be all about football :( However it made the journey go very quickly & we did get a contribution to the petrol costs so it was quite a good thing to do really.

The weather on our holiday was very good…lots of nice warm sunshine. I spent most of the cruise wearing T shirts & even sun tops at times. We have obviously brought the Mediterranean weather home with us too as it is very warm here too just now. The plants in the garden are completely confused! I am still picking an ice cream tub full of raspberries every other day - I never thought I’d get fed up with raspberries but this year its coming pretty close to that! I am still wearing T shirts & sandals…& yes it is the 1st of November tomorrow! I suspect we will pay for this nice weather later though & we are going to put the snow tyres on the cars next week as normal…even if it feels daft to be doing that!

Before we went away we had the last guests of the year staying in the gite. They were 2 Israeli couples (another first for us in this “international” year!) & they had a really good time. They were keen cooks & had quite elaborate dinners every evening – complete with candles. Unfortunately they were not so good with the cleaning & I had a lot of that to do when they left! I was glad that my friend Norma & her fella Chris, had decided to call in to see us on their way to Spain as they are both seasoned house sitters & not afraid to roll up their sleeves & help. Norma & I made short work of sorting out the gite & they really enjoyed walking the dog too :) I had forgotten to warn them that our cat Masie often goes for a walk with the dog too & they were a little worried when she didn`t come back with them…nor did she arrive that night. It was a big relief all round when she eventually wandered in the next day as they thought they had lost her! Geoff had gone back to the UK for that weekend to see his mother & meet up with some of his friends & then his trip was extended a bit as he volunteered to be bumped off his plane back from Paris as it was overbooked. Air France offered him some money (which paid for the whole flight) & put him up in a hotel for the night so he was not too bothered. It also got him out of the gite cleaning! We have now closed the gite up for the winter…which is a bit of a shame considering how nice the weather is just now, but it saves us a fortune in heating costs to just close it up.

I did manage to fit in another “ladies wot lunch” meet up with Linda, Muta, Tots & Judith before we went way. We had a lovely lunch at Le bar St Thomas & had a good natter too! Linda was still doing well with her chemo – she is now finished – so it was good to get together once again & put the world to rights.

So…that is the sea & the sunshine sorted…so what is this scary stuff I hear you ask? Well it’s a bit of a long running saga really. We have always done all of our insurances here in France via AXA, using a local agent who Geoff knows quite well as he did some work for them when we first arrived. We paid a bill for our house insurance as normal at the end of June – we have 2 houses & therefore 2 bills. AXA have contacted us several times now to say that one of the bills has not been paid & each time Geoff has gone to the agent to show them that the cheque has been written & that the money has gone out of our account…& has been told that all is fine, not to worry etc. However the day after we arrived home from holiday we got a letter saying that we were now being pursued by a debt collecting agency & should expect hussiers to arrive & collect the money. Needless to say I got very scared at the prospect of this, so Geoff was packed off once again to the agency to sort it out once & for all. There he was told that they have no record of the cheque & we have had to pay again, despite the original money having been taken out of our bank. We are now waiting for the bank to tell us exactly who has cashed the first cheque & then we will be going back to AXA to demand a refund. We are now a bit worried though that we may be on a “bad credit risk” list through absolutely no fault of our own. I thank my lucky stars that Geoff’s French is good enough to cope with all this…& even then we end up in trouble. Its all a bit scary really.

So we arrive at the end of October...Halloween to be exact. Geoff will be carving the pumpkin this afternoon to keep all the ghosties & ghoulies away from our door…lets hope that it works for hussiers too!!