Wednesday, 29 June 2011

And the sand gets everywhere

I knew there were a lot of them, but I didn't think there would be quite as many as there were, in the end.

799 to be exact.  Tis a pity I didn't make it to the 800 but nevermind.......

It's still a lot of photos. Of one holiday!

It must have been a good one then!!! :)

It was, actually - a very good one. A perfect relaxing holiday full of sun, sand, sea, relaxing with a good book or three, eating (well, it was France, it's expected!), drinking (ditto the last comment!!), sightseeing, and seeing parts of the world I've not seen before - so that's always a huge plus for me, oh, and being licked in strange places.......

The main part of theholiday was a fortnight in a villa 50 yards from the beach in St Palais sur Mer, near Royan on the Atlantic coast. It’s a lovely area with loads of beautifully soft sandy beaches, but punctuated with interesting rocky outcrops, and backdrops of pine forests behind, so it was quite dramatic, and even more so when the sea was crashing in after a night storm. That area is scattered with wooden shrimping huts, on stilts, along the sea shore, but I am convinced that they are only there for the tourists, since there was absolutely no sign of any fishermen visiting them, at any time night or day, nor of any shrimps, come to think of it!!!

The weather was very mixed, but I think that was better than wall to wall sunshine, because it meant days out sight-seeing. One of the high lights being a fabulous afternoon at the zoo at Palmyre (about five miles away), and I wished we’d gone for the whole day as there was so much to see and do – the highlight for me being handfeeding the three giraffes (Mummy Giraffe, Daddy Giraffe, and Baby Giraffe) their favourite snack – popcorn, would you believe! (Now, who came up with that idea?!). I loved the intimacy of feeding a semi wild animal especially when I realized that they don’t bite, but helpfully extend their very long curling blue tongues to have the popcorn placed on it, and the only drawback afterwards was that the whole of my hand was covered in giraffe slobber!!! The rest of the zoo was beautifully laid out, and well designed, and I really enjoyed seeing all the animals – especially the pretty red pandas, the manic tamarins, and the watchful snow leopard.

Other days out included a visit to nearby Cognac, a very non descript town that was overshadowed by the various distilleries – Remy Martin, Martell and the largest being Hennessy. We didn’t do the Hennessy tour but we did go in their shop, which looked like a high class jewellers shop by the way it was elegantly and expensively set out. We idly walked past the opulent display cases looking at the various cognacs in their different shaped and priced bottles, starting around £30 and then stood wide eyed looking at one bottle for sale at a thousand pounds, only to find that there was actually one there priced at two thousand pounds, as well!!! Fortunately I don’t drink brandy so I wasn’t tempted by any one of them….

There were visits to other delightful little towns as well  – notably Saintes, and Pons, both of which were a surprise to find how medieval and picturesque they were. That area of France doesn’t have many English tourists, so it was lovely to be surrounded by French people eating and drinking the same things that they did. There was only one half day of rain, and after a short drive up the coast for about eight miles and a bit of a wait for a break in the wetness to abate, walked across the sodden sandunes to the sea, to watch it spectacularly crashing in, only to get battered by the wind and rain and sand in the process! The following day, the rain had stopped but the sea was still crashing in and I thoroughly enjoyed the breathless excitement of the huge powerful waves lashing against the shore.

But the sunny days were spent languishing on wide beaches slowly building up a tan with the sound of the sea filling my ears the whole time, and the sight of it reminded me how much I've missed being near it.

And on the way home, we had two nights in the area around Tours which is the start of the Loire Valley. After a small search we found the delightfully picturesque little town of Amboise on the banks of the lazy Loire river, complete with its own chateau on a prominent outcrop overlooking the picturesque shops and houses below. It’s other claim to fame is that it is the town where Leonardo da Vinci died! I’d never heard of it before we happened to chance upon it. An easy walk around it, helped to explore it further and also went to the nearby village of Chenenceau which also has the most stunning white fairytale chateau which straddles the river Chen. There are many pretty chateaux all around that area, including one that inspired the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, and I would have loved to have visited more. The pretty hotel we stayed in, in Amboise was an elegant delight, with its own pretty gardens complete with very friendly white cat, and a very welcome pool, and again we only found that by chance as we drove down a little side street.

And as always, I took photos of everything I saw... the crashing waves on the beach, the picturesque bustling towns, the ancient stone buildings, the green flowing landscape, the huge wide skies, the happy fields of sunflowers, the sparkling light on the ocean, the pale pink sunsets, the busy cafes, the people. All of it the essences of France, all of it inspirational for me to want to capture it within my paintings.

So I've come back, raring to go, and my artistic juices very well fed!

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