Well it’s been a pretty quiet and relaxing week here at ‘our’ lovely property. The weather for most of the week was spectacular, with cool, sunny, brilliant-blue-sky days and cold nights. On Monday, David put two of his watercolour paintings in an art exhibition in a nearby village, we had our usual Tuesday evening art class, and French lessons and Dancing on Wednesday. On Thursday we drove over to Vichy to have a look around there and on Friday, to Lac de Vassiviere where we had a leisurely lunch on the balcony of a lake-side restaurant. During these drives (and the deviations!!) we once more enjoyed beautiful scenery, autumn colours and the occasional chateau or ruins thereof along the way. We also noted again the haphazard way in which a lot of French people drive – they overtake on blind corners, hills, short straight stretches when there are cars coming the other way, they take corners on the wrong side of the road (we almost ended up in the ditch one day avoiding another car), drive too fast especially in the rain, have no regard for any speed limit, stop wherever they feel like eg. in the middle of a roundabout (turning on your hazard lights apparently gives you the right to stop anywhere even if you’re blocking one side of the road), use mobile phones while driving, drive with their dog on their lap and barp their horn if you don’t get away from an intersection just before the light turns green!
Speaking of roundabouts, the French have taken the roundabout from a useful means of directing traffic into something approaching art. As any reader from Alice Springs would know, in recent years there has been a proliferation of roundabouts and most are featureless. In France, the roundabouts often feature beautifully maintained garden beds, statues or sculptures and in many cases have themes that promote the tourist features of the region. We have seen waterfalls, cablecars, trains, roman ruins and grape vines as features on roundabouts. We’ve included several photgraphs here of some of the roundabouts we’ve come across. Please excuse some of the dodgy photos as it can be hard to get a good shot as you drive through each intersection. A few roundabouts took us a couple of laps in order to get the shot. I think the locals must think we’re either nuts or lost, doing 360 degree laps while Chris or I have the camera perched on the dashboard. One of the most spectacular aspects of France is that each town takes pride in developing and promoting the identity of their town or region and making certain the towns are neat and tidy and the roundabouts are treated as a public space to promote the town. In Alice Springs there was recently contentious discussion over having a statue whereas a French town without a statue or fountain would be wrong. Even the smallest of villages has their fountain!
We have 4 more trips planned before we head back to Australia – over the next 3 weeks we’ll go to Strasbourg, Paris and Toulouse then when we leave here on Boxing Day to go to England, we’ll go to Amiens (full of Australian history relating to WWI) and Bruges (Belgium) before catching the train to London. So, lots more to see and do and 7 1/2 weeks in which to do it.
Best wishes for a good week ahead!
Chris and David