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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two great gigs, Carcassonne and back to the Barn!

We're back at the barn! After 6 weeks on tour and an impressive 1080 euros raised so far with another couple of gigs to go closer to home, I think Cancer Support France will be very pleased with the cheque we hand over and we certainly feel as if we've done both ourselves and the charity very proud indeed.

Reflections on the tour are many and varied but on the whole it's been enjoyable, we've met many wonderful people and been to some wonderful parts of France. Carcassonne was one of the highlights for me and it's certainly a place I'll be heading back to to in the not too distant future because I didn't get chance to visit and photograph the walled city part, I really wanted to but on the evening I'd planned we got a gig in a local restaurant. No worries though, I've promised Gabrielle a trip out there next year and I'm thinking that Spring in that part of France will be outstanding ...we might fly out, we might be in a camper van, but whatever we'll be together and in truth not being able to share all of this with her has been the hardest thing to bear on tour.

Here's a pic I found on Google of the aforementioned walled city of Carcassonne and you can maybe see why why I need to get back there with the camera!

The slighter newer part of town is non too shabby either. Whilst we were there we were lucky enough to catch a bit of the city's annual music and arts festival and here's a clip of one of the free gigs we were at (just click the link) - Lucky Peterson - I believe I'll dust my broom

Our last couple of booked gigs in this neck of the woods were both marvellously entertaining affairs. The first of these was in a very isolated but totally awesome campsite called La Fargassa. It was way up in the mountains close to the Spanish border and the road trip up there was not for the faint hearted .... no wonder campervans are not encouraged! Such was the beauty of the place we ended up staying there for 4 days and the hospitality extended to us by the owner Madhu will live long in the memory - I took a shed load of photographs whilst I was there, partly due to Madhu asking me for some publicity shots for her site, but largely down to the fact that it was just a beautiful place to be in. Here's a sample to show you what I mean

Personally I love driving up and down mountain roads like this but Jane n Mark's van struggled for headroom on more than one occasion and apparently many campervans have been trashed trying to get to the site!!

Worth the effort though, this is a superb wooded mountain range with some beautiful streams that you can swim in, in the high valleys. 

 Safely installed and though the mountain streams were inviting it's practice first as always!

And now for that swim!!!

Here's a few before, during and after our splendid gig on the Sunday eve ... such a great atmosphere that night with neighbours from the adjacent valleys present, lots of kids and animals too .... all up and dancing through the night (apart from the animals)

Our wonderful host at La Fargassa, Madhu, making a charity call

The campsite is very eco orientated, child & dog friendly and is run with the help of several overseas volunteers who stay free of charge in return for managing the site and associated farm. If you'd like to sample this wonderful place here's link for you to explore - La Fargassa campsite & gites it comes highly recommended but DON'T take a campervan!!

Our last event on our tour we took as paying gig because we had reached our target for Cancer Support France - we ummh'd and arghed a bit about this but felt justified in this since we had taken very little in the way of expenses throughout the tour. It was at a campsite just outside the town of Trebes which is on the Midi Canal and just 10k from Carcassonne so an excellent location. Thanks to Guy, the campsite owner we again enjoyed 3 nights free camping, all our drinks and 150 euros for the gig which was perhaps our most enthusiastic audience ... 3 encores and still they wanted more! Not sure about this but I think any audience with plenty of Dutch folk present is a good one, especially if they're a bit piddled ... and we had both here in abundance and if they could they would have gone on all night!!

Sadly not much in the way of pics but here's a great one of Guy with my guitar and a random Dutch guy getting it on after the event.

Once again, a great site and highly recommended here's a link La Commanderie

OK time to wrap this blog post up but I have many photographs still to sort through after 6 weeks touring Southern France plus a short hop into Spain so will be putting these together in due course.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Bums n Boats!

Well it seems the busking tour is pretty well taking over from my normal postings on 'baggins abroad' but this is not a bad thing. July and August are the 'pants' months for birds just about anywhere and, music apart, we are passing through some stunning parts of France as well as meeting many interesting and diverse people.

A couple of weeks ago whilst busking in a market place we were approached by someone who wanted to book us for their campsite..... free drinks, free accommodation and food. Agreed we said! Slight catch, depending on your outlook on life, the campsite turned out to be one of those where all involved do their camping with no clothes on!

Undeterred, up for the crack and determined not to turn the other cheek, we 3 busking troubadours, clad in nothing but our clothes, strode boldly into a place of nude people at Le Couderc naturist site, a Dutch run establishment (why are we not surprised!) and were immediately disarmed when we had to ask directions to the reception from an octogenarian naturist. Funny thing, it was us that felt embarrassed's not at all sexy, just a bit strange to see so many people going about their activities without clothes on! Further discomfiture ensued when we were shown around and taken to the bar for a drink .... faced with 3 sets of  male bum cheeks leaning against the bar its really tricky to make the right sort of conversation or know where to look. I think we ended up admiring the beams in the ceiling!

Joking apart, I have to say that the owners made us feel very comfortable, provided us with a chalet, food and all the booze we could drink. There was no pressure at all for us to do the naturist thing and for our gig in the evening all the campers were dressed. It was a good gig, we raised a decent amount for the charity. Sorry folks, no pics were allowed of the naturist thing, shame because those three cheeks at the bar was a picture dying for a caption but here's one of us playing the gig and some blond geezer with a guitar who didn't mind being photographed!

After that experience we've headed further south and after a small but very enjoyable gig at the 12 bar in Hure (nr Bordeaux) we've picked up some very lucrative gigs in the bars along the Midi Canal where it runs alongside the Rivere Garonne. The canal itself links the the two coasts of France, the Atlantic and Mediterranean and is a quite magnificent piece of engineering. Constructed in the 17th Century by a chap called Pierre Paul Riquet, it was commissioned as an alternative waterway route to the dangerous and long trade route around Spain. After falling into disrepair after the 2nd world war it has now been given a new lease of life by the tourist trade and judging by the multi-national make up of the boating folk - Australians, New Zealanders, Dutch (of course, they get everywhere!) and Brits as well as many French boats, its certainly thriving with the several ports along the way providing great meeting places as well as good places for us to busk and make great money for the charity!

The canal was an excellent place for taking photographs, not just because of the gaily coloured boats and barges but also because there was so much going on, with lock gates opening and closing and well, you know boat folk .... if their not tying knots or scrubbing the decks, their usually just showing off! Anyway, boat photography is a new genre for me so here's a few selected pics I thought captured the feel of the place.
This is about as busy as it gets!
Love the composition on this one and I think my mum will like the name of one of these fine vessels!
Here's Hilda May's back end!
One of many grand old barges moored up

Guessing this is newer but no less grand!

Could this be a French rival to the Grand Canal in Venice?

Deck guard!!

No photo collection of canal life would be complete without at least one lock pic so here you go .... small boy and 2 cyclists thrown in (not literally of course) for good measure!

We made many friends and acquired some great contacts during our short stay along the various ports along the Midi Canal and the Beyond the Gap tour will be back there on our way up North. For now though we head for the Pyrenees and since my blogging is way out of date here's a bit of pseudo time travel for you .... we've already done the Pyrenees gig (went very very well!!) ... I've been to Spain and back and by now Jane n Mark should have sampled at least one stage of the Tour de France. Oh dear .... much catch up blog posts to do!!!