Tuesday 31 July 2018

The High Country

Yesterday was an exciting day, following roads selected from the safety of my office chair in Preuilly with the intention of getting us more or less half way home from Klosters. We will be writing more about the roads we followed in future posts.

 Yes, that is a 4 metre wall of snow.

Our sixth country in seven days.

Monday 30 July 2018

Keeping Cool in the Great European Heatwave of 2018

Wondering how to keep cool in the European summer? First go on holiday to the Swiss Alps, where the max temp is ten degrees less than the plains of France. Then swim in the lakes. On a sunny day the water temperature is a very acceptable 18C.

Davoser See (1500-ish metres).

The aquatic leisure activities centre on Davoser See.

Rosy's in and Jon is joining her.

Me (the sharp eyed will note the Australian flag bikini).

And looming over it all, the mountains and the 'Golden Egg'.

Sunday 29 July 2018

The Davos Swissalpine Irontrail Marathon

Yesterday Simon's brother participated in the Davos Swissalpine Irontrail Marathon. 42.9 gruelling kilometres in the Swiss Alps, up one valley, over a pass and back down another with a total climb (and subsequent descent) of 1425 metres. We were able to follow him by car up to the head of the first valley, and pick up the trail again on the way down the second valley. The pass was inaccessible glacial scree and not much fun to run although the view and scenery were reportedly amazing. Here is a series of photos documenting the day. This is one of those events where for most people time is of no consequence, it's all about finishing.

Simon and Jon just before the race began. Jon is drinking an espresso, 
to the horror of a French fellow competitor (using stimulants!)

They're off! (To the strains of that Russian humming hero music)

Jon passing his hotel.

Running along the lower valley. This is the flat section.

Beside the stream that flows down from the mountains.

Jon heading for the pass.

The first feeding station.

Soon after this the real climbing began and we couldn't follow.

Going up where the roads don't go. This is just before it gets difficult...

Jon passes the finishing line 7h 14m 27.9 seconds later.

Jon enjoying a beer afterwards.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Cunninghams Gap

Last weekend Susan wrote about Cunningham's Skinks.

It may be a gap in the range, but it's still high

Allan Cunningham was a quite amazing man. Not only did he take part in many of the european explorations of Australia, and find and name many species, he also did the same in Brazil and New Zealand.

On one of his explorations of Moreton Bay and the surrounding area in 1828 he discovered a pass through the Great Dividing Range, connecting what is now Brisbane and the Southern Downs. The highway is named after him, as is the pass.

The containers are apparently full of rocks and are a landslide barrier

Since I first travelled the road it has improved out of sight, with many of those improvements coming since we left Australia. It's still not a road to be taken lightly when foggy or wet, or if you're towing something, but it is much better than the one lane each way with sheer drops road it used to be.

Friday 27 July 2018

On the Road. Again

This time it's eastern France and Switzerland.

But because we like to do things the hard way, we went to Switzerland via Germany, Austria, and Lichtenstein. So here's a selection of photos from foreign places. At some stage we will revisit the photos with explanations.

Thursday 26 July 2018

The Modern Tour de France Caravanne 2018

The Tour de France caravan is the reason that fully 48% of people bother turning up to watch (proper statistic I saw somewhere or another, honest). We noticed the crowds thinned after the caravan, so it must be true.

You need guts to ride in the Tour de France

...but if you don't get too tyred

...you return feeling chipper.

Water lot of effort go into these machines.

Blog posts about previous caravannes can be found here.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Equestrian High School

The agricultural high school on the outskirts of Amboise specialises in two main streams of study -- winemaking and equestrian husbandry.

Recently we've encountered students and teachers out exercising the draft horses.

I think these are probably Comtois, the most popular breed of French draft horse. They come from the Jura mountains and were bred by the Burgundians in the early Middle Ages as war horses, later becoming draft animals.

At the school students get a grounding as professional grooms, breeders, jockeys, equestrian tourist guides, saddlers and osteopaths.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Cakes With Flowers

The most recent Loire Valley Cake and Bake Club meeting was hosted by Lisa at Boussay. She chose 'flowers' as her theme, which we all found extremely challenging.

Admiring the cakes before we all tuck in.

I made cereal bars, full of seeds that would grow into flowers. She made a lavender angel food cake, improvising the cake pan by using a coke can in the middle of a spring form tin.

Lisa demonstrates the correct method of cutting angel food cake, 
which none of us non-Americans knew.

Monday 23 July 2018

Fixing a hole.

On Sunday of last weekend Susan announced that the car had a flat tyre. I was peeved because the tyres are only two years and two days old and in my experience a hole in a tubeless tyre means it has to be replaced. I checked the tyre over and even though it had lost half its air I couldnt find anything obviously wrong. So I pumped it up and a couple of hours later, after checking it hadn't deflated, we went on our way.

On the Monday morning it was obvious we had a problem - the tyre was soft but not deflated, so Susan went to Cossons in Bossay-sur-Claise, where they plugged the tyre. It's a new process for me, but one you can do at home with the right $7 kit from ebay. You can probably even do it without removing the wheel.

First you reduce the tyre pressure to 1 bar (15psi), then you remove the object that caused the puncture, in our case a small screw. Then you use a spiral probe to bore the hole out a slightly larger diameter.

Next step is to put a piece of repair strip through the eye of the awl, making sure the sides are equal in length.

You then put a thin coat of the glue on the probe and push it into the hole, making sure you coat the sides. Pull the probe out and immediately push the awl and repair strip into the hole - about 2/3 of the length of the strip.

Twist the awl through 360 degrees - this will cut the end of the repair strip - and extract it.

The wet patch is where water and detergent was used to find the hole.

Fill the tyre with air to correct pressure.

Job done.

We were really happy about this - it cost 10euros and was done instantly. I may even buy a kit so I can do it myself in future.

Sunday 22 July 2018

The Essence of Castlemaine

Something we never expected to see in Australia was an antique shop that specialises in old French petrol pumps. The owner scours France for old pumps and imports them.

If you think your life is missing an expensive old French petrol pump, the dealer is here.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Gone to the Wall

When I was a young bloke living in Canberra we had very few museums and art galleries. This meant that apart from a visit to a dairy farm and one to Parliament house, school excursions were restricted to the Australian Instituite of Anatomy (Phar Lap's heart, skeletons, Papuan penis sheaths - photo here) which now no longer exists, and the Australian War Memorial (tanks, guns, airplanes).

No prizes for guessing which was more popular.

Lancaster G for George. There used to be more light in the Aircraft Hall

In 1972 a feature that I thought was the best ever thing ever done anywhere was unveiled, a mural showing all the aircraft type used by the Australian air forces between 1914 and 1968. It was massive - 4.5 metres by 60 metres - and incredibly detailed, and I had poster copies of it on my bedroom wall. It was painted by Harold Freeman, who was an official war artist during world war 2, and who went on the be the State Artist of Victoria.  Today the mural can't be seen after the aircraft gallery was redeveloped in 1999 and the mural hidden behind black panels. A poor image can be seen here.

Today some of the aircraft I remember from my childhood are still on display - Lancaster bomber G for George, a Spitfire fighter, and Albatross D.Va World War 1 german aircraft - but no mural.

You can't even buy the posters any more.

Friday 20 July 2018

Struck by Lightning

Yesterday evening we had a tremendous storm. It started while I was on the phone to a very chatty client and I could see Simon in the background getting more and more agitated about the need to disconnect. A couple of hours later and back online I picked up friend Simon D's latest FB post. Here's what he had to say:

Our little village of Boussay in Indre-et-Loire was just rocked by a massive thunderstorm and the steeple of the church here took a direct hit from forked lightning -- see the line of the strike on the steeple and the slate debris in the street and grass below. This hit was maybe 100 meters (as the crow flies) from our house -- the noise of the strike was deafening. Exciting stuff. For concerned dog lovers reading this, Brandy was as cool as you like.

Other bloggers, from near and far in France, are remarking on the storms last night.

Fortunately, my postillion was spared.

Thursday 19 July 2018

Applying for a Carte de Sejour

We currently have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU by virtue of our British citizenship. We both have dual citizenship, Australian and British. That British citizenship automatically gives us EU citizenship. Once Brexit actually takes effect we will be non-EU citizens and have to apply for permission to live and work here just like our American and Australian friends.

A titre (or carte) de séjour, as it is known, is not strictly necessary yet, and will not be until March 2019 at the earliest. However, the advice from the British Embassy, the British in Europe citizens rights support groups and the French Ministry of the Interior is all to apply now for a titre de séjour. Those already holding cartes de séjours when Britain finally exits Europe will be fast tracked into whatever the new system is.

 The Post Office in Preuilly sur Claise.

The procedure is outlined in detail on the RIFT site but I thought it worth outlining what we have personally done so far. I've been networking with others in our situation for months and literally everyone's experience with this particular issue has been different, because the Préfecture in Tours' response has been different for everyone. The Préfecture is the département (county) administrative centre.

Back in October last year I spoke to a local British couple who had applied for cartes de séjour immediately after the referendum in 2016. They were exceptionally quick off the mark and were issued cards without too much bother. They kindly provided me with an inside contact at the Bureau d'Immigration in our préfecture in Tours.

I emailed the public servant they had dealt with and outlined our particular circumstances (born in Australia, married in England, dual citizenship, arrived in France in 2009, own home, income as per last tax return, auto-entrepreneurs). The public servant replied within a week, pointing out (as I already knew) that a carte de séjour was not yet necessary but that we had a right to apply if we wished and she gave us a list of documents she wanted to see as proof of when we arrived, what our income was, proof of identity and proof of our continuous residence in France for five years. We exchanged several cordial and professional emails, then Simon and I went to Australia for a couple of months.

 Our dossiers ready to go.

On my return applying for a carte de séjour kept falling to the bottom of my to do list, but slowly slowly I accumulated the pile of documents required and put them into categorised folders. Then I counted up how many pieces of paper I needed to photocopy. Around a hundred! We figured it would be cheaper to do it at the library on their big photocopier than at home using our ink on our little home office printer. Off I trotted to the library, only to have Hélène, the librarian, apologetically tell me that her photocopier was en panne, with no hope of it being repaired any time soon.

So I popped in to the mairie with my sack full of papers. The receptionists looked horrified and very quickly told me to come back when Gérard, the deputy mayor, was there. He was apparently responsible for 'this sort of thing'. I went home, and that evening Gérard called at the house. He left clutching all our documents, marked with how many copies we needed, and promised to do them himself over the next few days. About a week later he was back, with a file of papers that had doubled in size and he had done all the photocopying. He refused our offer of payment, so we gave him a bottle of 2015 Chinon which should develop into a good drop.

In the meantime I'd bought two folders with tabbed dividers so I could slot in the various papers, index them and keep them organised without annoying the public servant who would eventually have to deal with them. The papers are loose but contained. I'd heard that fonctionnaires hate having to deal with papers in plastic slips because they take so long to get out and put back in. I hope that little touch pays off...

At that point we received a letter from the préfecture, referencing my previous email correspondence and inviting us to submit our documents within a fortnight. No mention of having to have an interview at any point. So I drafted a covering letter in my bestest French and sent it to my friend Alain to proof read. I told him it didn't have to be perfect but I didn't want it to appear like it was from some mad foreigner. He kindly emailed back with the comment that it was clearly not written by a native speaker, but was perfectly comprehensible and I didn't sound like a crazy person. He made some minor corrections, mostly gender and accents. I printed it off and attached it to the folders of documents.

Then I took the folders to the post office and asked for an envelope to send them off to the préfecture. The post office clerk suggested a box would be better and went out the back to get one. The folders only just fit and she spent a while taping it up using little pieces of sticky tape. Eventually I said I wasn't convinced by the tape arrangement and requested she tape in a single strip from one side to the other. Nope, she couldn't do that. She'd run out of tape. If I wanted the package taped up securely I would have to go round the corner to the tabac, buy some tape and come back.

By this time there was a queue of four people and the lack of tape and sending me to newsagents caused some sympathetic eye rolling in my direction. I was back very quickly and one of the people in the queue helped me tape up the box more securely. I explained that it wasn't that the documents were valuable, but I'd spent hours gathering and sorting them and didn't want to risk the package bursting open. I filled out the forms for getting notification of the parcel's arrival at the préfecture and paid the €12.50 postage. I was surprise at how little the postage was -- I was expecting about twice that.

So it's in the system and now we just have to wait. My guess is that the next we will hear will be in about six months time, but in the meantime I've made an appointment online for early October at the préfecture. I bet we just get the brush off at that point though and told we must just wait for the file to be processed.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

An Evening of Fun

On Saturday I posted a video of the Retraite Aux Flambeaux, but there's more than just marching around town following a band and flaming torches.

Trying to get a hay baler through a crowd standing on the road.

As customary we meet at the Mairie at 9.00pm. At that time it's still light - far too early to do flaming torches, so we stand around catching up on news and bising our way through the population of Preuilly. At about 9.30 the Pompiers start organising themselves with torches

Starting to get somewhere

Once we're organised we follow the band around town, visiting the poterne (in front of the chateau) and crossing both bridges across the Claise before marching up the Grande Rue

We then head off to the Plan d'Eau for fireworks, set to music. We are always surprised by how good the fireworks are for a town with a population of only 1,000 people.

The evening finishes up with beer and dancing, which lasts well after we do - usually I return home after a couple of tunes to prepare a blog post about what we have done. This year I was home before midnight, but making the video took a couple of hours. Even then, I could hear the dancing was still going on.

We always enjoy our Bastille Eve event, it is a highlight of the year. Next year why not join us?