Day 6 – Watching the Solar Eclipse from our garden

It’s been the most talked and most awaited moment for the last few weeks and they reckon that a total eclipse will put England into momentary darkness. Well, it happened at 11am yesterday and with our kind-hearted Hungarian neighbour, Tibor, who lent us a black glass UV filter, we were able to marvel at (and photograph) this staggering phenomenon of the sun playing around with the moon.  Though it was only a partial eclipse, I was almost teary-eyed to see this event happening right before our (UV filter protected) eyes, in our garden….. Thank you, Lord, for this once in a lifetime opportunity – for the next one will happen around 2080 and we won’t be here then and even so, we may not be in the right place…

Note: The dark line on Image 3 was the electric wire blocking my sight….

In England, unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see anything so they had to rely on the television to see the total eclipse happening, although they did experience the momentary darkness..

Day 4 – A trip through memory lane in the South of France

After fifteen years living in the south of France with the Italian Riviera just over the fence,  it was quite hard to give the Latin culture and traditions up and move into a country with an entirely different way of life such as Hungary in Central Europe.

These regions of France and Italy have given us practically a lifetime worth of wonderful and remarkable experiences  that no amount of money can buy.   Friends we have met, passions and interests we  have unearthed,  practical skills we have learned and the lifestyle we got immersed into helped transformed us in the way we think and act, moreso to a non-European like myself.  Indeed, they both hold a very special place in our hearts that’s why everytime we get the chance to travel here, it’s like going back home to our family and  walking back memory lane.

So on Day 4 of our trip, it was great to see familiar places and dear friends again.  It was also very uplifting to see  colours!  Colours of buildings, flowers, oranges hanging from the trees, the Mediterranean sea in its turquoise glory, and heck, even umbrellas and chairs – they have certainly uplifted our sense of well being, what with the long grey days of winter we have been experiencing in the North.

Hope these photos will also uplift your spirits!  Happy browsing.

 

 What a joyful view we  have from our hotel window in Menton!

The peak of the orange season in Menton is between February and March hence, we were right in time to view this roadside spectacle of raining oranges, but unfortunately too late to catch the Annual Lemon Festival which took place from 14th February to 4th March this year.

The sea tends to become more inviting if contrasted with Al fresco dining furniture such as these!

… and matching flower displays like this one..

With the many restaurants lining the seaside promenade of Menton, there appears to be a colour competition to attract the diners.

Birds of Paradise already out in March – only in the south of France!

so deliciously pleasing to the eyes!

Colourful buildings in the Old Town

Outside of the Old Town, we find this last church standing.

Just few kilometers from Menton (France) is the Old Town of Ventimiglia (Italy)

Finally arrived in Fontan, the village where we used to live.

Of course, our dear friend Monsieur Antoine who proudly displays a photo of his youth taken in the 60s.
He is the young man standing next to the pony.

And this is the reason for our trip to Fontan.  This white Peugeot car (hey, vintage is trendy now!) – stained by the elements after being left untouched like how you see it now –  used to belong to me and was successfully sold to the monsieur on the right.  A widower at 82, he also proudly tells me how, since his wife died 18 years ago, he never fails to put fresh flowers on his wife’s grave everyday without fail.  He looks very fit, wearing his signature shorts whatever season of the year (the date is still Winter).  And oh, he showed me the pendant he is wearing which has the engraved portrait of his wife.  How sweet……

Roadtrip Day 3 – The scenic road to the south

Continuing the journey from Grenoble down to the south of France, taking the local roads which are more scenic than the motorways:

Stopped in the thermal bath town of Digne les Bains

 

 

Cemetery of Digne les Bains.  Wonder why crosses of graves in Digne are covered with arc roofs

 

 

The signature Plane trees of the South of France


Arriving in Menton, the lemon capital of France! (oopssss….these are oranges on the picture)

Roadtrip Day 1 – Back in the land of the walnuts

It’s a multi-country roadtrip originating in Paris and we have been preparing for this for more than a week as we have to pack the van with loads of stuff while doing DIY projects on the side.  Weather forecast for today says there will be snowfall in the southeast which is part of our route but what the heck, we might just survive it.

First stop: At  the village of Albenc, at the caravan site where our caravan has been parked and stored for more than three years. This is the third time in the last three consecutive years that we are visiting it, to check if it’s still intact and fit to travel. We plan to take it out of storage soon and tow it to our home in Hungary where it will stay for the rest of her days.

But first, the roadtrip towards Albenc:

Albenc is located in the heart of the walnut region in the Isere Valley near Grenoble

You see this sign  all over the area such as this one displayed in a roundabout on the way to Albenc.

The walnut of this region is recognized for its exceptional quality and international reputation due to its AOC label “Noix de Grenoble”.  AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée  and noix de Grenoble is just one of the first fruits that are  AOC recognized.

With the Vercor mountains as backdrop, you see walnut trees as far as the eye can see.

A lot of walnut drying houses dot the farms and center of towns, too many that those not in use anymore are converted into apartments or other buildings

Voila!  our caravan (at the back) still standing – and dry inside despite getting exposed to the elements for more than a year, since the last time we saw it…

Church of Albenc – photo I took while waiting for H who was out in search of an ATM machine, and believe it or not, there is none, despite the estimated 1,000 inhabitants (as of 2011) so we had to drive to the next town of Vinay three kilometers away.

Roadtrip Day 2: The beauty – and danger – of Snow

Stayed the night in Moirans. The next day, we had breakfast at a café in the Old Town.
In France, you can buy your croissants at a Boulangerie (bakery) and have them with your coffee at a Café.
It is widely accepted; cheaper, too!

Did a quick sightseeing after breakfast. This is the Romanesque Medieval church of Moirans

It’s the primrose season in Moirans

A chemical factory in its glorious days, now getting converted into residential units

Cemetery of Moirans

Bas-relief of a priest praying….probably for the soul of the priest buried in this tomb.

We left Moirans and continued driving towards the Alps.  This area of the Alps is route
to the annual Tour de France hence, this cyclist’s sculpture in the roundabout.

Look…..the dam is frozen!

We would have picked this hitchhiker but the van is so full we couldn’t even move!

Paragliding in the snow!

Stopped for lunch of crepe (savoury pancake) accompanied by a refreshing cider – perfect combination!

Took this photo of the restaurant’s window curtain… nice idea for home!

A quick walk around to shed off the calories

The village hall or City Hall building

I was quite enjoying watching Ski fashion all around me, but this lady’s skiing shoes make so much noise like she is walking in clogs!

 

The town of Briançon has its own skiing resort just on their doorstep.

The cable car line of Briançon which takes the skiers up on the mountain.

Col de Larche is “Ouvert” meaning OPEN so we continued driving….
(but this will be the exact spot where we would get stuck because of the sudden fall of snow)

Ski all day, dance all night!

And it started to snow hard…Uh uh…. the road is freezing…

Oh no! we are getting stuck here!
Yes, we got stuck on the road! The van’s tires have lost grip on the icy surface! Vision of my life is now playing in my mind as flashbacks…we’re finished!
But wait! we have a shovel at the back of the van, quick! The snowstorm is freezing the road so fast!

(Fast forward)
After a calculated struggle, and my silent prayers, we did manage to make a U-turn and drove back at a turtle speed. We saw this snow bulldozer on our way down and made a deep sigh… thank goodness, we are alive!

An answered prayer.