Tag Archives: driving

On The Road Again to Newcastle Upon Tyne

Departing Norfolk on Monday, we were back in travel mode as we faced a 5-plus hour drive north to Newcastle Upon Tyne. After (finally!) getting past the ultra-slow two-lane A-roads of Norfolk, we began to see large overhead signs on the motorway indicating that we were headed to (seriously!) “The North.”

After three hours, we were drooping by the time we were just outside York, so we stopped in one of those mega-roadside-rest-stations that has multiple restaurants, a chain hotel, petrol stations, a grocery store, and a bookstore inside. There might have been a lot of traffic on the motorway, but the inside of this large building was amazingly quiet as you can see from the photo below.

 

Food court at motorway rest stop


 

And since when is it necessary to have music-playing games machines right outside of the toilets in places like this? Sometimes having an iPhone to document things is quite handy!

 

One machine in a row of fun-fair type games parked outside the toilets in a motorway rest stop


 

I’ll be posting pictures in the days ahead of our short term renovation assignment here in Newcastle and some tourism articles about places to go and things to see in Newcastle.

Stay tuned!

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Safely Back in the UK

Wrapping up the last week of life in France was incredibly compressed. But I am happy to report that we are safely home in Norfolk at Mark’s parents’ house. What a trip back though! I thought the 10-plus hours of travelling on Friday was bad — on Saturday we did 12 hours.

We drove through a full day of torrential rain that the windshield wipers barely kept up with on Friday. And may I just say that spending just short of THREE HOURS in wall to wall traffic on the Paris ring road was not a happy experience! The next day we had to deal with a really scary hail and ice storm in northern France which turned to snow just before we got to Calais. There were lots of car accidents north of Paris and we were driving slowly to be sensible and safe.

Then due to the weather, the P&O Ferry sailed from Calais to Dover an hour late in gale force winds. Thank heavens for motion sickness pills! After that we had another three hours of driving from Dover up to Norfolk. There was just enough ice on the road up here that Mark skidded the car a bit a mere 1 km from his parents’ house. Whew!

Gosh I slept hard — and so did Mark. We’ve had a marvelous and restorative day so far, a scrumptious brunch out, my darling mother-in-law is cooking pork roast for dinner, and after the movers arrive tomorrow we’re going to start looking for a new van for driving on the UK side of the road.

I took some wonderful photos at a museum outside Paris yesterday and I will try to start posting those — and the other huge backlog of articles and photos from the last month — in the coming week. Be patient — we’re taking it a day at a time right now and trying to get quite a LOT accomplished in a very short time.

Life is good, we’re happy to be back, and we’ll keep everyone posted!

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A Beauty Break in the Midi-Pyrenees Of France

Life in France is frequently centered on quiet village and rural lifestyles. As a result, the scenery is often quite splendid even if the instant gratification of 21st Century amenities are somewhat lacking.

This charming view was taken on a roadside in the Midi-Pyrenees somewhat near the picture in a previous article about the Cathar ruin that we passed whilst driving back to France from Spain — “Slivers Of History On The Side Of The Road In France.

 

View of a rural village & countryside in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France from the D117 roadside.


 

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Damaged Drives and A Wintery Pause

It’s been an odd week — I can’t say otherwise. I had a catastrophic hard drive failure on one of my MacBook Pro computers, so I spent an entire week getting things sorted out.

We have no authorized Apple stores anywhere near where we live in rural France and I didn’t fancy trying to ship off a computer when it was 3 weeks until Christmas. As it was, I was rather staggered when I spoke to one authorised Apple repair place outside of Paris and they quoted €99 for the diagnosis, over €500 for the new hard drive installation, and up to €1,000 to recover the information on the hard drive. I had called them on Skype and Mark heard the entire conversation. After I hung up, I turned to him saying, “If I have to spend that much money, I might as well wait until the after-Christmas sales and buy a new one!”

Through sheer stubbornness and bizarre optimism, I managed to clone the hard drive on the working computer, wipe and reformat the damaged hard drive on the dead one, load the cloned information over onto the wiped drive, and get the damaged one up and running again. I have no idea how long that drive will last, but trust me, it will get backed up every single day if new information goes onto it!

My really, REALLY amazing bit of handiwork though was recovering all of Mark’s ‘lost’ photos from Barcelona. I kept downloading test versions of expensive software programs that claimed to be able to ‘find’ images on digital camera drives even if they had been deleted. Day after day I tried program after program with no success until finally, amazingly, one of them showed me ALL of the photos on the SD cards. I was stunned since the computer said that they were empty, yet the software was clearly showing me the photos. And yes — I now have all 761 of Mark’s Barcelona images on both computers and on a back-up drive as well. Whew! It was an exhausting week of highs and lows that ended splendidly.

The rest of my photo essays from Salvadore Dali’s Museum in Figueres, Spain will be up soon. But this past weekend was spent doing things with the darling Mark since it was his birthday.

Gifts were presented on Sunday morning and then after a nice lunch in a nearby cafe, we took a drive in the countryside up into the Midi-Pyrenees mountains where Mark is currently working on a large barn-conversion-into-residence project. I knew that there was snow and ice up there since he had already gotten stuck in a ditch once this past week, had a ride inside the cab of the snowplow, and then he and the snowplow driver pulled him out of the ditch. But little did I know that he had a bit of an ‘adventure’ in mind for me.
 

Mark at barn-conversion-into-residence job site in the Midi-Pyrenees of France


 
We drove through Massat and then Mark turned onto a one lane road that had multiple hairpin turns and which wound higher and higher up that mountain range. I was getting white-knuckled by this time since there were no guard rails along the road, no place to pull off if there was any kind of difficulty, and it was a huge plunge if you went off the side of the road anywhere!
 

Snow covered mountains of the Midi-Pyrenees in December 2012


 

Up and up we went and then the worst-case-scenario arrived in the form of an old blue van which was going down the one lane road as we were trying to go up. We each backed up a bit to see if there was any room to pass one another, and just as the blue van got stuck in the ice at the edge of the road, Mark continued to back up DOWN that road and he began to move toward one of those sharp curves. It wasn’t my finest hour — I admit that freely — but I suddenly shouted, “Stop! I am getting out!” I was shaking all over from fright and the mental image of us plunging off the side of the road at that curve.

Mark walked up the road, helped the people in the van get out of the ice and back on their way down the one lane road, and somehow without shearing off our side mirror and with the woman driving whilst the two men shoved at the side and back to keep the van on the road and not plunging off the right side, they managed to pass with a whisker’s distance between the two vehicles.

Back in our own vehicle and with a bit of ice and mud being flung into the air, we spun our way out of the very narrow ditch we were parked in. I was close to tears and Mark realised that, given the road conditions, perhaps it hadn’t been such a good idea after all. But I was calm again by the time that we got to the top — another 5 minutes of white-knuckle driving time — and the photos above show the view from the top. This is where Mark has been working every day for the last several months and I had to admit that it was quite a special place to go to work each day.

You may or may not be able to see the small black shapes in the deep shadows. Apparently a small herd of Pyrenees horses arrived this past week and they are being wintered in that paddock next to the construction site.

I’ll be returning to more posts from Barcelona and Figueres in the coming days — so come back soon!

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An Unexpected Road Sign

We are back in Australia for this post and I am sharing a road sign that we stopped to photograph on the island of Tasmania off the south coast of Australia.

It’s a beautiful and mainly rural place with gorgeous undulating scenery. And it is also the home to rather a lot of kangaroos and wallabies, all of which are more active between the hours of dusk and dawn. Just as it was when we lived in Country Victoria, one has to be very alert when you drive at night lest you end up with a severely damaged front-end of your car from colliding with these very muscular and dense-bodied creatures.

Hope you enjoy this drastic change of pace from the photos of France!
 

A serious warning about what you could unexpectedly encounter on the roads as you drive at night in Tasmania, Australia.


 

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Diagonally Across Southern France

Leaving the French Atlantic seacoast town of Mimizan, we scanned the map that was proposed by the sat-nav system and decided on an alternative route. Instead of sticking to the motorways which were fast and efficient, we would go cross country in a diagonal route and travel almost exclusively on small roads through rural villages and regional towns. What a wonderful decision that was!

Travelling deeper and deeper into the countryside and moving ever southward, the changes in architectural style were immediately apparent. The deep gray and dark gold stone buildings of Normandy were giving way to more and more buildings that were stucco rendered. And by the time we were a few hours from our final destination, we remarked again and again that one valley looked like a slice of Tuscany and then next one after that looked like a piece of Spain. This was a very different sort of appearance to the traditional towns further north and the scenery was stunning on that bright and sunny day.

All-day-long availability of meals in France is simply impossible and there is a small window of opportunity for eating at lunch time that lasts for approximately 2 hours. Knowing that we had entered that window of time, we stopped in Sabres for a multi-course plat du jour which included the main course (a large piece of medium-rare steak, sauted vegetables, and frites), a glass of red wine, a desert of our choice (creme brulee), and finally an expresso. Yum!
 

Saturday plat du jour lunch break in Sabres, France


 
Driving for several more hours, we next stopped for a beer at a sidewalk cafe in the pretty market town of Samatan in the Gers region of the Midi-Pyrenees. This is the starting point for Stage 15 of the 2012 Tour de France.
 

Streetfront in Samatan, France


 
The sun was hot against our skin, the ice-cold beer was incredibly refreshing, and the street scene around us had a distinctly Mediterranean feel.
 

Fountain in the town square in Samatan, France


 
The building below was distinctly Italianate in both style and colour.
 

Italianate building facade in Samatan, France


 
The strangely warm weather had brought out pedestrians clad in thin, cool clothing, cyclists, and people driving with the top down in their convertible sports cars. This was our last stop as we drove and within a few hours, we were entering the outskirts of St. Girons in the Ariege district of the Midi-Pyrenees and heading toward our newly rented house.
 

Classic open-top sportcar (convertible) on the streets of Samatan, France


 
Stay tuned — the upcoming posts will be slices of life from our new home in the south of France.
 

ADD to Pinterest!


 
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Photos Of The Day: Drive Oh-So-Alertly At This French Beach

The sign below is not something to glance quickly at and then ignore. If you happen to be in a car, you will be ignoring it at your peril!
 

Pay attention! Drivers need to be alert about what is right in front of them!


 
This sign is on one of the main streets in St. Martin de Brehal on the Atlantic seacoast of France. It may have been a gloomy and chilly day when we took our walk last Saturday through this village in Normandy, but at least the rain wasn’t horizontal as it had been for the previous four weeks.

Here is what the street looks like with a restaurant and bar right on the corner as you approach the beach.
 

The beach and the sea are just past the last building on the corner in St. Martin de Brehal in Normandy, France.


 
And this is the beach scene below. Walking on that beach is one thing, but trying to get a car out of the sand or potentially plunging into the high tide is another matter altogether!
 

If you drive down the wrong street in St. Martin de Brehal in Normandy, France -- this is where your car will end up!


 

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