Sunday, 5 October 2014

A Week of Extremes


We are now in Theza which is a small village outside Perpignan, on the Mediterranean coast toward the Spanish border. The drive here from Marseille took all day as we stopped for a leisurely three course lunch in Montpellier. It cost 19 euros per adult and the children's meals were free. We had oysters and squid for entrees, mussels and salmon for mains and waffles for dessert. It was divine and pretty good value we thought. Montpellier is another place we would like to go back to for a closer look. What we saw of it was beautiful with a large grassed area and restaurants overlooking the river which has a huge fountain coming out of it.


Montpellier

 




I have to give a quick high five to Dave for managing on the roads here.  Driving on the right is bad enough, but what is worse is that the other drivers have their own set of rules, being:
1. Get onto the roundabout as quickly as possible and there is no need to indicate to show where you want to go.
2. Lanes are there to be ignored.
It can be pretty scary stuff but he has (generally) remained pretty calm. I think the 130 kmh speed limit on the autoroute (motorway) has been a hit and cut down our time in transit. For example, imagine doing Christchurch to Dunedin in three hours. But toll roads are a real pain. Indicated by "péage" on the signage, the company that built that specific highway recoups their costs through a 'user pays' toll system.  One trip cost us 30 euros just in tolls.


Our gite in Theza
 
We arrived at our accommodation to find the gate locked and no-one home. There being no intercom on the gate, we opened it up to find a note on the front door. So I rang the cellphone number and we let ourselves in. The owner's sister turned up after about half an hour and explained a few things about the house in French. The house is absolutely gorgeous and decorated so elegantly but it is NOT child-friendly. A myriad of ornaments and antiques are placed oh-so-stylishly on every available surface. There are steep wooden stairs leading up from the main living area. There is also an unfenced pool two metres from the back door. If you have ever met my toddler (or just about any toddler), you will know these three things are irresistible! By this time, it was getting to 5pm (which is the witching hour) so we set off to get some food from the supermarket for dinner. Then the usual dinner, bath, bed rush. And Dave and I were feeling pretty jaded by this point. It was definitely one of those times when we ask ourselves "what the f* are we doing?".

We went to a beautiful bay called Collioure. It is only about 20km from Spain and has a definite Spanish feel to it. The famous artists used to hang out here and you can see why - it is picturesque from every angle. It is another medieval town with narrow cobbled streets, a preserved city wall and more history than you can shake a stick at. We fortunately arrived on a market day as well. We found a quiet spot on one of the beaches (for some reason, the majority of the tourists were drawn to a specific stretch of sand next to the main shopping area). The kids had a ball paddling in the water and making sand castles.


Collioure



Everyone is making progress with their french learning. We are finding that listening to french music is helping all of us improve. These are some of the top songs right now: "Tu es fou" (you are crazy) and "Dernière danse" (last dance). Have a listen. Watching tv is a mixed blessing as it can be hard to understand, (especially French comedy) but the game shows are relatively easy to follow.

Carcassonne was another place I was really keen to visit while in Languedoc. It is the quintessential French medieval walled city on the hill, overlooking the new town. Walking across the drawbridge and into the cobbled courtyard, it is easy to imagine it full of life in days past. Apparently the castle is the 2nd most visited tourist spot in France after the Eiffel Tower. It is filled to bursting with tourist shops and cafes and, of course, tourists.


Carcassonne



Next chapter: Bordeaux

Where we can hopefully settle down a bit and explore at a pace less than breakneck speed!
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