Thursday, August 09, 2012

Catching Up

Rooftops at Rennes Le Chateau
I can't believe it's been so long since I wrote a blog post! I really can't. But when I think about it, it's not so very surprising. Since I officially finished work on 20th July, I've been either away or very busy much of the time.
Sunflowers near Salle sur L'Hers

The first week was spent on my first real holiday in ages in the south west of France. I was lucky enough to get a real bargain of a flight from those wonderful Irish carriers, Ryan Air. Just to put it in perspective, my return flight from the Netherlands to Carcassonne (around 1500 kms distance) cost less than the return train fare from Carcassonne to Agen (less than 200 kms distance). It would be so great if train travel were the more cost effective, wouldn't it? I much prefer it for many reasons, not just the sense of real travel. Anyhow, I was also very lucky to have friends and family down there to stay with and I had a wonderful week. The sun was hot, the sunflowers pure gold and I literally wallowed in the warmth. Just what I needed, in fact. Carcassonne itself is a beautiful, historic city steeped in legends and drama, and for anyone who is interested in things to do with Cathars, Knights Templar and Holy Grail stories, this is surely the place to revel in them. I came home with a book on the subject that I am finding hard to resist, but know I will have to if I want to get other things done at all. It's called The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Harry Lincoln. It is quite a tome, but from what I have read so far, absolutely fascinating.

An enduring image of Carcassonne for me - sun, steely blue skies,
colour and above all, historic battlements

The only part of the ramparts that are still in the original
style with wooden walkways and palisades

The streets of 'new' Carcassonne - still lovely

When I came back on the 31st, I stopped overnight in Rotterdam to sort a few things out and give a final lesson, but then I sped on down to Zeeuws Vlaanderen to join Koos and Sindy at our usual haven of peace and tranquillity. We spent a few days pottering, painting and doing the garden but achieved a golden triumph when we got our little barge, the Hennie Ha, running on its new cooling system. What a moment that was! What a relief too, as it's taken forever to get it fixed. I also started doing the summer painting that's always necessary on boats so hopefully, this weekend, we will take a short test run in our ongoing project. I can't wait to be on the water again...

The Hennie Ha after its smooshing last weekend

Then on Monday, it was back to Rotterdam again to work on Koos's Luxor. It was in need of some serious TLC, so we've just spent the last few days cleaning, scrubbing and clearing the detritus of ages out of the old barge. We hefted an unwanted fridge, various other electrical appliances and heaps of old wood up to the tip, and then attacked everything with soap, scrubbing brushes and a high pressure hose, not to mention a good dose of strong will. It was hard, dirty work, but worth it. The Luxor now looks almost respectable again - just in time, as it seems someone is interested in taking it on, which will be another relief, especially for Koos.

We are now back in Zeeuws Vlaanderen once more and it is well into August, but the time has been well spent. We are hoping to have a few days of rest and relaxation, plus another foray into France, but more importantly, I need to finish some assignments for my studies and prepare things for next year....yes, already....sigh....

Life then is never dull, and while I hope I can get down to some writing as well, I know that will be the luxury I might not have time to afford. I do hope so, though. It's what makes life worth living in the long run. Well, it is for me, anyway, and this, our getaway retreat, is the best place for inspiring me.


  1. What a wonderful holiday, Val, and in a corner of France I would love to see for myself some day. I have read the book you took home, although it has been lent out from here and I have no idea where it went- perhaps to Lesley, if memories serves, but it was so long ago... That book was the basis for Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, and the subject of a lawsuit between them, you may remember. Austin and I were big fans of a computer mystery game called Gabriel Knight, and he ventured into rennes-le-Château in one of his many adventures, looking for clues to the grail. I suspect we would recognise a lot of the places there just from that.

    The hard barge work doesn't sound too charming, but I'm glad someone is interested in the Luxor.

    As we near the close of the summer, I hope you'll continue to get some rest and relaxation. Give my best to Koos.


  2. Wow, Anne Marie, I am impressed you have read it. I didn't know about the lawsuit, though. In fact, I hadn't heard of this book until my friends took me to Rennes le Chateau and encouraged me to buy it. I have too much to do now to read much of it yet, but I will do so. You would just love it down there. It is incredibly beautiful, hopelessly romantic and wonderfully hot!

  3. Have you read any of Kate Moss eg the Le Scepulture, her books are based around Carcasonne, well worth reading. Sounds like you are having a lovely holiday, make the most of it, it is all very well getting things done but you also need to relax! Lecture over have a good time xxxx

  4. Actually that should have been Kate Mosse - Sepulchre!!!

  5. Hi Fran, no I haven't read any of her books but I've been told about them and looked her up - Kate Mosse, that is. I'll see if I can get a copy of the first one. Thanks for the very sweet lecture :) I find it difficult to relax, but I will try!

  6. Hey Vally, great to hear you spend your holiday so relaxing! To add something to the bookreviews that are going on here.... don't look any further! The book you want from Kate Mosse is the Labarinth. It's my favorite book for a long time now. I have the Dutch version if you are interested. I gave Stu the English version.... we might still have that one somewhere. You can borrow it if you like... I'll be home most of the time from now on, si if you like you can oick it uo some time! X Simone

  7. Hello Val,
    Your blog warmed my heart for it was so good to see what sunshine looks like :)
    I recall passing through the region of Carcassonne on a coach many years ago and the energies felt very familiar. I made half a promise to return and bathe in it's history - one day, one day I might.

  8. Simone, thank you! I would like to try the Dutch version. That would be great. We will be back in the 'buurt' tomorrow, so will drop round to see you, not without warning of course :)

    Mel, I can warmly recommend it, not only for the sun but for the history, legends and aura of mystery the region has. I love it.

  9. Hi Val, I can't believe I havent been by Blogger in so long.

    Lovely photos as usual Val. You are always doing such wonderful exciting things. Must be nice to have a break now until the Fall.



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