Oh, my goodness…it is so lovely being back in France again. Although we really love living in Carlisle now, we have really missed our French life, speaking French, sunshine and enjoying all the little quirks of everyday living here! We had a very eventful, even a bit of a stressful first half of September preparing for our trip, worrying about what we would find with the flat and the car, stressing about what clothes we left here (and in my case what would still fit me!) and all the hassle of making sure everything was up to date before we left the UK for a month. However, all went well with the journey and subsequent arrival in la belle France…but more of that later.
I`ll start with the first half of September back in the UK. We were kept quite busy in the first couple of weeks with trips out and about and meet ups with friends. We had our first face to face meeting of our U3A French conversation group, over a very nice lunch at Laings café near Carlisle. It was lovely to see all the members of this little group, in the flesh, at long last and we all enjoyed a good natter and made plans for the groups continuance both on zoom and in person for the next year. We also enjoyed a little trip out around some of the local venues on the Eden Valley Art Trail and saw some beautiful paintings and craft work. Another of our trips out saw us driving down to Windermere to go to an exhibition Geoff had seen advertised in the Cumbria Life magazine, of wonderful photographs taken above and below the surface of some of the lakes. The exhibition was at Brockholes activity park and it was very good indeed…in fact it was so good that we actually bought one of the photographs and intend to collect it when we get back to the UK. The exhibition is still on I think and if anyone is local or visiting the Lakes, it is well worth going to see it.
We had a great trip out to Corbridge one Wednesday, to meet up with our great friends Julie and Jean -Luc, who were over from France to visit Julies family on Tyneside. Julie was the “other Geordie” on the hill where we used to live in France, who had been born and brought up five miles from where I was born! She had been missing her regular visits to see her sisters during the Covid shenanigans and had come across the first opportunity they could! It was really lovely to see her and Jean-Luc again and to catchup with all the news from St Etienne sur Usson and Chameane again over lunch. We then went on to visit a garden full of medicinal plants and flowers at Dilston…another interesting and peaceful place to visit if you are in the vicinity. Our other meet up with friends, was when our friends John and Elizabeth paid us a visit at the flat for lunch, the Sunday before we left for our holiday. John and Geoff went off to the Solway Aviation Museum, whilst Elizabeth and I had a little walk around where we live and then went to see Hazel and Phil, as military aircraft is not really my scene! The “boys” enjoyed the museum though and we all met up again in the evening for a meal.
The next day was not so pleasant as I had packing and sorting out to do and then another eye clinic appointment which as usual culminated in more eye injections. At least I got that all over and done with and could go away knowing there would be another six weeks grace until the next lot!
And so, on to the next half of the month…the trip out here to St Aygulf. The journey out was good. We took the train from Carlisle to Manchester Airport (with fingers crossed on my part as I have done that before and have not had happy experiences at times!) and all went well. Everything went smoothly at the airport and all our documentation was in order, thank goodness. We arrived in Nice and took a tram along to our hotel on the Promenade D`Anglais and used our Covid pass for the first time! We had decided to leave picking up the hire car and arriving at the flat until the next day so all could be done in daylight and without stressing ourselves too much. We collected the hire car the next morning from the airport – again we had decided to do this to give us a bit of breathing space to get our car, which has been languishing in its cosy garage for nearly two years now, sorted out and back on the road again. We arrived at the flat and having re -acquainted ourselves with access codes, which keys opened what etc, we were in at last! And were pleasantly surprised that everything a) worked and b) looked great! We spent the rest of the day cleaning a bit, finding out where we had put stuff and restocking cupboards from the nearby superette. It was a real joy though to be finally back and to find everything in such great working order. The view from the balcony was just as I remembered it too . Some of the clothes we had left here were a bit of a surprise (we had forgotten what we had left here!) and a lot of mine don’t fit of course but all that can be remedied over the next couple of weeks. Our beloved Sylvie car was OK too…apart from having a totally flat battery and soft tyres, but as we had the hire car for 10 days, we decided to take our time about getting her back on the road again. We have now done that, she has a new battery, renewed insurance documents and passed her CT last week with no problems, meaning we could return the hire car a day earlier than planned and start having fun with her again…top down of course!
I have been restocking my wardrobe too…and despairing at the stupid sizes here in France! Unless you are stick insect thin here, you have to get used to ignoring the fact that the only clothes which will fit you, will be labelled XL or even XXL. Remember, I am now buying size 14 clothes in the UK! It does little for the morale! We took a big bag of my old clothes up to the nearest Emmaus depot the other day and also took the chance to look for a few bits and bobs we have decided we need in the flat…but to no avail. We have now found a little unit with drawers for the kitchen, which was the big thing that was missing. I have now been able to clear off a bit more work surface space, by being able to put stuff like cutlery etc into these drawers. We have also now got some hooks up for towels etc and have hung some paintings up at last. Bit by bit the flat is being put in order and is becoming a very nice little holiday home. We had a visit from an electrician and a decorator last week too, but as they are both very busy at the moment, this work will not get done this time round…which is just as well as it gives us a bit of time to save up…the electricians devis (estimate) is going to be a lot of money we think.
Our apartment has a balcony where I spend many happy hours gazing out to the blue Med beyond the rooftops and watching all the boats and yachts which sail up and down the coast. This balcony was one of the main reasons we bout this flat in the first place and we use it as we had planned to, as an extension of the living room. I
m afraid though, that I have become a balcony “twitcher”, as it is possible from our lofty height to see all the activities on neighbouring balconies and in some cases when the lights are on, into limited bits of neighbouring flats. The family across from us intrigue me…so many different folk coming and going. Madame feeds the pigeons on the roof below her balcony every morning and they line up ready for breakfast! They also have a very pampered cat who gets thoroughly brushed every morning! There is another cat…a fat ginger one who lives on the flat rooftop opposite. He looks very content lying in the sun every day, only stirring himself to eat when his food is delivered via a window! The folks behind us who have the nicest and biggest balconies (and the best views of the sea) have fine collections of plants and small trees growing on their balconies. They are a bit boring though as they go inside very early in the evenings – they dont get the sun in the evenings like we do! I have to say that balcony people watching is keeping me very amused!
We have been enjoying mooching round the local markets…and spending a fortune as usual! I am having great difficulty keeping to my very restrictive diet…everything is so tempting here. I have to put blinkers on whenever I pass a boulangerie or patisserie! We have noticed though, that things are much more expensive than we remember…even the basics. Lots of visits to the bank for more cash going on☹ We are though, profiting from a lot of “end of season” sales, so that has evened things out a bit. We bought a half price parasol and other half price things in a local quincallerie and we have bought a few clothes too, in the sales.
I have to say that we are really enjoying being back here. The weather has been fantastic (temperatures in the high 20s c) ever since we arrived…although it is due to cool down a bit next week we understand. We have been visiting the beach and swimming in the Med practically every afternoon. We have continued with our Wednesday date day lunches and have enjoyed driving a little way further along the coast to eat well in small restaurants with sea views. We celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary in one of those places and were given a complimentary glass of fizz each…despite my protestations that I didn`t drink alcohol. It was a lovely gesture though. We have also started to explore a bit further afield too and went off into the hills the other day to play tourist, by looking around two beautiful hillside villages which we loved. Yesterday, we had thought to take the train from St Raphael along to Nice but our lack of forward planning put paid to that, so we drove to Nice instead. It takes less than an hour to drive there and it is very straight forward to do so. We spent a great day walking round the old town, looking in a few shops and eating (salade Nicoise of course…what else?) in the Flower market area. Today, we have a little trip up past St Tropez in mind, to visit maybe some of the famous beaches there.
We also met up with our “cruise buddy” friends Mandy and Carolyn, who live near here, for lunch the other day which was nice too. They came back here with us to inspect our little flat…and I think it got the thumbs up from them! Next week, one of my friends from the UK is in Antibes for the big car rally there so we are hoping to meet up with him too. And we still have to arrange a meet up with Geoff`s sole remaining student Chloe, who he teaches English via zoom. She lives in St Tropez and has a very busy social and work life, so we are still not sure if that will happen or not.
Geoff is also making some new friends here by playing pickleball…something he started doing in Carlisle a couple of months ago and which he enjoys greatly! He contacted a nice lady (Giselle) via the internet and after we met up with her one Sunday morning over a coffee, she took him to a club where he has now played a couple of times. It is a bit of a drive away but as the people there are really nice and welcoming, he has decided to play there once a week until we go home…and he will continue to play in Carlisle.
So, the first two weeks of our stay here have gone by very quickly. We feel that we have made some good progress with the things we wanted to do in the flat and in getting to know a bit more about the area etc. We have two more weeks to go and then it will be back to a lot cooler weather (or so I understand) and although we are looking forward to seeing the family (and the dog) again we will be sorry to go home, I think. We have started to look at all the stuff we need to do to actually get back…and are less than pleased to see that because we are flying to Edinburgh (no Easyjet flights to Manchester now) we will have to submit to PCR tests before we leave …thank you Nichola! However, now that we have done the trip once under all the new rules etc we feel much more relaxed about it all…well until nearer the time I suppose! More about that next time …
A bientot mes amis…