Wednesday, May 30, 2007

France 2007 - next 20 pictures

Well, here's the second instalment of pictures. I'm not sure I could pick a favourite day, as they were ALL fantastic! Maybe I should have a vote at the end LOL? Anyway, today we wanted to climb this mountain, called 'Bugarach'. There's a really good site with loads of information on the mountain, and area, here;

We were driven, as always, by Brenda & Mannes, to a gite. A gite is like a hostel, some are good, some are not so good. The one at Bugarach (also the name of the village), is superb! It's run by ONE young woman, and unfortunately, she was suffering from a VERY bad case of sciatica. I could well empathise with her, as the same thing afflicted me two years previously just before I went to France, and it is EXCRUCIATING!
Before any mountain assault, it's VERY important to relax.
To some people, this simple act comes naturally........

Others seem to find it extremely difficult (and amusing).

Before we started the walk, B&M decided we had to see the most remote village in France. I'ts called Montet! More to the point, this is typical of B&M, their patience and time seems of no regard to themselves, if it means taking us somewhere new, or showing us something interesting.
The village was a picture postcard, really lovely. The drive TO the place was amazing, let alone anything else.

This was the village cat, a lovely tortoiseshell.
Just LOOK at the backdrop to this photo.

A stiff climb marked the start of the walk. It looks a hard climb, but it wasn't too bad, and the weather was lovely, with a soft breeze to keep us cool. At one point, I put my glasses on a rock to wipe my brow. BIG mistake, as I forgot to pick them up and had to return for them after I realised 15 minutes further up the mountain.

At the first col, we came upon these mountain horses. Aren't they LOVELY?
They really remind me of that Guylian chocolate seashells stuff, JUST the same colour! You would think they had been groomed all day to look at their coats, just perfect.

LOOK at that view, just another day in the Pyrenees.

My brother Colin and I, at the top of Tres Estelle - 6,000 feet.

Look, you KNOW you expect it - so here it is - the 'me on a rock' picture.

Beautiful pine cones. All this wild magnificence around us, but I always take time to look near as well, as there is so much else to see. They were very sticky if you touched them.

I call this picture; 'driving towards heaven'

These are Mannes' favourite mountains, because they look like a pair of breasts.
TYPICAL bloke!

We met up with B&M's friends, a French couple. We then went up another 6,000 foot mountain. We WERE in search of a plane wreck from the year I was born, but unfortunately, as we got higher, the snow became very deep, and the wreckage was probably covered, so we gave up. The walk was great though.

You can see the snow getting deeper here.

We DID find a nice bare patch, with some sun-warmed rock, to have lunch though.

In the next set of picture, you will see just HOW deep the snow was as we got higher. B&M decided to wait lower down, and WE took the high road. There's a super frozen lake, and snow at over a metre in depth - I know, because I decided to stick my walking pole in it - and it went RIGHT up to the handle, and still didn't bottom out!

France trip, 2007

Hi all,
I have to say, it's really hard to sort through the hundreds of pics I took in France. I'm getting there, but thought you'd like the first 'instalment' to be going on with. I am up to the day we went into some fantastic caves, the grottes de grand canalettes. This was an incredible experience, and I think there are some really good photo's. Of course, NOTHING can do it justice like being there. Those are to come, but for now here's from day one.

These are the people that made it all possible, Brenda and Mannes. We are eternally grateful to them for everything. You just could not buy a holiday like they gave us. They ran us everywhere in the car, knew all the very best places, fed us like kings, had patience when we wanted to take pictures, go further, stay longer, climb higher, and never ONE sigh or cross word. Saints, the pair of them! The dog is Robi, he belongs to Mannes. Robi found the leg of an Izzard (an antelope) on a day walk. God KNOWS where he got it, but within only three hours, the three dogs (Brenda has two Samoyedes) had devoured it, fur, toes, the LOT. Again, those pics later.
This is Brenda's lovely house, 'Les Samoyedes in a little village called 'Nyer' (pronounced knee-air). The balcony on the left is right outside my bedroom, bliss, whatever the weather.

"Make sure you have your boots on - you are walking straight off the plane".
They were the instructions from Brenda. We did a lovely walk through the vineyards, then it turned into quite serious climb to a tower on top of a hill. A good warm-up for what was to come in the following days.

That was where we were making for, that tower. As you can see, it was a lovely, warm day.
You may also deduce that the hill it sits atop looks VERY steep.

I went to France last August, with the sole objective of getting to the top of 'Le Canigou'. At a tad under 10,000 feet, it's the highest I've been on foot. I can tell you now, it is HELLISH cold at that height! No chance of going up there this time of the year though. As you can see, there is a lot of snow

I love this picture. It's got it all, the mountains, the snow, and the flowers.

On the walk down, we passed through a lovely village. There was a ruin on top of a hill, so of course, we climbed up to it for pictures. Brenda & Mannes, as usual, waited patiently for us.

Aren't these little villages just too nice for words?
(But what do the people all DO for a living????)

What a lovely vista.

The ever-present vineyards. The vines had tiny grapes on them, we were FAR too early!

Another view of Canigou.
Mannes' house has a wonderful view of this mountain, which he loves dearly.
Looking across the valley to the mountains.

We were sent out on our own this day, to go up the Caranca gorge. Brenda wouldn't take the dogs, as it's far too dangerous.
You'll see why soon. I actually was drawn off the path by what we could see above us, so we had to go back again later in the holiday, led by Brenda, to do it again, and it was WELL worth it.

Once I saw THIS above us - I made a bee-line for them! If only I'd known, these are good, but the BEST balconies were further up the gorge, where Brenda told us to go. I am too impulsive!

As we climbed higher up the gorge, the views got better and better.

After taking the shot above, I just turned around, and this was behind me.

How's your head for heights? This path just drops away to the gorge floor, a LONG way down.
Not so bad, IF the path looked stable!
Does this look stable to you? No - me neither.

View over the edge - you need a steady hand and foot up here.
See the path we came up on below?

Some sections were quite a breeze though.

I do the French speaking, cooking and wine pouring and Colin, my brother, does the navigation (very well too, I might add).

You don't have to speak French to know this is telling you to be VERY careful up here!

Just a kid at heart, there was a carpet of fallen leaves. Well, we couldn't just leave them LYING there - could we?

That's the first 20 done. I hope you like them.
I am really looking forward to posting the cave ones - oh go on then, ONE sneak preview..........

Friday, May 18, 2007

My fifteen minutes of fame

If you haven't heard of them, you have no interest at all in Irish folk music. Lunasa are a world famous band, selling out most of their venues. They travel extensively, but when they are within 150 miles of me, I get a ticket to see them. Last Wednesday they appeared at Nottingham University (a sell out), and I was in the second row.

Anyway, after the last time I'd seen them, at Litchfield, I was my usual gushing self about the performance. Mind you, it is always perfection. I jokingly sent a; 'Jim'll fix it' email to their site for me to play with them on stage (one of my hobbies is playing the bodhran, or Irish drum). It was very tongue in cheek, and I just forgot about it.
I checked my emails just before going on Wednesday, and there was one from Tracy Crawford (the lead of the band's other half, I guess), saying my email had only just been seen, then going on to apologise that there was NO WAY Lunasa could invite an unknown onto the stage without practice, knowing ability, etc etc. She was very nice about it, and I was a bit embarrassed, as I hadn't really expected them to agree to it.
Anyway, off I went to Nottingham University's Djanogly theatre. First half, fantastic, second half, just as good, then they came back for the encore, and Kevin suddenly announced they were going to dedicate this last song to Les Singleton (yours truly). I was stunned, to say the least, but what happened next was he got me up, took me to the stage, (for some bizarre reason made me put on one of those Day-Glo vests), and then the band struck up. I was given the drum, and off we went!
It was a dream come true, and I think I 'held my own'. I even got a smile & a wink from the usually dour Cillean Vallely - praise INDEED! Sean Smith looked over and winked too, and that really put me at ease. Well, after our little number, the auditorium erupted, and I was SO proud! Here I was, in such fantastic company, me - and I had actually played along with Lunasa.
Does it get any better?

Thanks lads.