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since 02/11/2005


Lodève Cathedral France, Languedoc - Roussillon 17/06/2009

Religion wars in the Languedoc Roussillon

Lodève Cathedral France, Languedoc - Roussillon The Cathedral is visible from all the roads which lead to Lodève, with its imposing 57 metre high square bell tower set in the heart of the town. As on many Saturday afternoons, my son had a football match, this time in Lodève. Years of matches have allowed me to discover a large part of the Languedoc Roussillon region. On arriving in Lodève, the Cathedral struck me as the obvious classical visit. Lodève is situated in the bottom of a deep valley, and therefore any road taken to get there leads from the surrounding mountains above. Lodève being a small town of less than 7000 inhabitants, the Cathedral tower lofts way over the four-storey red tiled houses. Having dropped my son off with his team, I parked up not far from the Cathedral entrance, I thought I'd take a few photos of the outside first. I wanted to walk around it to catch the south façades rare and faint winter sunlight. To its right, and west end, glued to the cathedral is the town hall which is closed to the public by a grand gate. No access west wise. The north façade and entrance in front of me looks like many other Gothic Cathedrals with its large stone blocks and buttresses which have been darkened by time. Once around the apse to the east, with its tightly fitted buttresses, the cathedral is joined to the endless houses which form the side street. Tough for the south façade photos! Back to the entrance... The grand ancient wooden doors were wide open, and on the wall outside, a map of the cathedrals ...

La Couvertoirade, Aveyron, France 24/07/2008

900 years of history

La Couvertoirade, Aveyron, France Before I give you my opinion on the castle of La Couvertoirade, it is preferable that I explain how and why this fortification was built. I will do my best to cut a very long story very short. The Templar Knights Order was established by Hugues de Payns, in 1119 and his companions with the objective to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, and to defend the city itself. Due to generous donations, they rapidly owned land and property in the west, and formed commanderies who would give them a part of their pay. To join the Templar's, men would vow to poverty and chastity. It was Philippe le Bel in 1307, who ordered the Templar's arrests, accusing them of practising secret rituals, idolizing the devil and sodomy. The trial of the grand Maître Jacques de Molay led him to be burnt alive along with other Templar's. Les Hospitaliers came from the hospitals created for the crusades both in Jerusalem (1113) and later in Italy and France. It was only in 1140 that these were militarised, with a charitable vocation, defending Christianity. The Templar's settled on the Larzac plateau and more particularly at La Couvertoirade in the 12th century. This strategic position allowed easy access to the Mediterranean, and therefore to Jerusalem, but it also offered an agricultural paradise for breeding sheep and horses, and growing wheat. In 1312, when the Templar's are prosecuted and killed, their belongings are left to the Hospitaliers who now rule over the Couvertoirade. ...

Glastonbury (England) 17/07/2008

A unique and unforgettable experience.

Glastonbury (England) With that festival season in the air, I was day dreaming of those teenage days when festivals had a sense of freedom. Well it was a while back, between 1986 and 1988, that I went a couple of times to the mythic Glastonbury festival. At that time, there where only 140 000 visitors under tents, tipi's, in their cars, vans, trucks or simply under the starry/cloudy sky. It looked like a valley full of hippies trying to beat Woodstock, apart from the music. Long gone were the days of flower power and easy sex. Glastonbury was a musical orgy with different flavours and tempos from one side of the world to the other. ♪♫ The first thing that you'll surely notice on arrival to the site (I'm sure this hasn't changed) is the large number of police men trying to organise the thick traffic, followed by the festival stewards who'll ask for such a ridiculous amount of money, that you'll wonder how youth can actually pay for the weekend out.... It was £50 at that time. ♪♫ Having looked on Internet, you now need to prove your identity with photo to prove your ticket is yours, which you've booked in advance of course, and which now costs a smashing £155 for the three day event, and £10 to park your car or £50 for a camping van! Families can rent a tipi on site. Entrance is free for kids under 12 years of age, with ID proof, of course. ♪♫ Once your car / van / bus / truck parked in one of the near by fields, you'll start walking... sometimes ...

Aqua Brava, Roses, Spain 21/06/2008

Slide it!

Aqua Brava, Roses, Spain Situated 3 kilometres south from Roses, the aquatic park was the local Rugby Clubs choice for a day out during a 4 day trip to Roses, in June 2005. Having courageously offered to accompany the coach full of singing rugby fans, amongst which there was my son, I'd prepared myself for a wet / busy / noisy day. ¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨ First impressions, once we'd managed to get everyone through the park gates, one by one, was that the crowd I'd expected, wasn't there. In fact, apart from our coach full, it was almost empty! Once in the gates, we were confronted with a souvenir shop in front of us, and changing rooms on the left. These were basic but efficient, and in no time at all, the lawn in front of the changing rooms accumulated a huge pile of every ones belongings and off they all went. ¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨ After deciding "who stays with the lawn pile" first, off I went to see who was up to what. I saw the first bunch of kids trying to climb up a climbing wall, the other side of a pool. Needless to say that with wet hands and feet, this didn't seem to be an easy task. I'd say they did more diving than climbing. ¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨ Further on, a round Jacuzzi with a couple in it looking very involved, and a giggling red faced kiddie spying on them from behind the bushes!Kids! Just behind, the landing pool of three swirling water slides. Between the two, a steep path leads up to the departure zone of a number of water slides, one of which is a closed black hole ...

Serrat d'en Vaquer, Perpignan 06/04/2008

The invisible Fort

Serrat d'en Vaquer, Perpignan This is not considered to be a major attraction, seeing as the fort is buried, there is actually very little to see!!! It was inaugurated by the Mayor of Perpignan in 1998, and there is an impressive reforestation project underway around the fort. ■ٱ■▫▪▫■ٱ■ It is actually a very interesting location. Situated on a hill top, it overlooks a huge commercial zone and the town of Perpignan to the north. To the east, you can see the Mediterranean Sea, and south, the Roussillon plain, with its vineyards and fruit cultures, leading to the Pyrenees, and more particularly, the Canigou Mountain, a Catalan favorite. On a clear day, the 360° view is spectacular, and on a clear spring day, it is simply magnificent. ■ٱ■▫▪▫■ٱ A long driveway leads to the fort gates and outer walls, around which is a deep ditch, which looks particularly muddy and unappealing! A small house has been adapted within the outer walls for the guardian of the fort. Dogs must be kept on lease when the Sheppard and his sheep are out and about. ■ٱ■▫▪▫■ٱ■ The originality of this fort is that it is buried. The driveway ends at the only visible facade of the fort, facing north with a large courtyard out front, which would have been used to gather the troops to push back the Spanish invaders. Occasionally, there are exhibitions ...

Palace of the Kings of Mallorca, Perpignan 10/03/2008

Remains of Spain on the plain

Palace of the Kings of Mallorca, Perpignan This Gothic Palace, ordered by Jacques I, King of Mallorca, was to become his personal residence and fortress. Situated half way between the castle of Vincennes and Sevilla's Alcazar, it is a blend of Andalusian sumptuous palace architecture, and northern style squarish fortresses. Designed by Ramon Pau its construction began in 1274, and was completed by 1309. It is certainly the most important edifice in Perpignan, and actually serves double purpose. One side of the palace is touristy, and the other, military. This implies that a visit of the palace, is only half a visit, which I found a shame. There is no public access to the military side, although the gardens go all the way around. Therefore, there are ugly fences which block the passage, in the beautiful gardens which are speckled with statues. It's easy to find the palace, as it is just south of the city centre and on a hilltop. In front of it, there is a big car park, which up to now was free. I say that as the last time I went (in February 2008) the whole car park was under renovation, so I'm not sure that it will stay free, seeing as the rest of Perpignan's parking spaces are not. From the car park, all you can see of the palace is an impressive red brick 8 meter high wall, which is very fortress like. There is only the one entrance (on the tourist side) which leads into an underground reception area, where there is a ticket office which functions only during the summer season. Out of season, the grounds are ...

Hyde Park, London 08/02/2008

An Oasis in the desert

Hyde Park, London When I was 16 years old, many years ago, I went to six form college just off High Street Kensington, and I lived in a youth hostel, just off Notting Hill Gate. To get to college from the hostel, I had the choice between taking a bus, the underground or walking. Having tested all three possibilities, I soon abandoned the first two for the third. It was actually faster to cross Kensington gardens than to take (and especially, to wait for) public transport, not to mention the visual appeal difference. With my walk-man on my ears, (Burning Spear or other ragga or punk sounds at that time) going to college was rather pleasant, thanks to the stroll across the end bit of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens. ۩۞۩๑๑۩۞۩ There is no real separation between the two, Kensington Gardens becomes Hyde Park by passing the Serpentine, (an 11 hectare huge lake, created in 1730, and where people can rent boats on a Sunday afternoon to relax), and the West Carriage Drive, or the Ring, as it is commonly known. Hyde Park was originally, in 1536, a closed deer park, used for hunting when Henry VIII acquired the manor of Hyde. It was only in 1637 that Charles I opened the park to the public. In 1689, William III made of Nottingham house, his official home, Kensington Palace, which later became the birth place of Queen Victoria and Queen Mary (the actual queens grand mother). When I was a teenager, it was the home of Lady Di, and I often saw ...

San Pedro, Spain 06/02/2008

Souvenirs of Paradise

San Pedro, Spain San Pedro, in the natural park of the Cabo de Gata, along the Costa de Almeria, in Andalusia, was such an exceptional place that I kept it to myself for over 15 years! But the inevitable has happened, and people will always talk about good things, which has lead to a profound and sad change of this, what used to be, paradise on earth! ¨˜"°º•۝•º°"˜¨¨˜"°º•۝•º°"˜¨¨˜"°º •۝•º°"˜¨¨¨˜"°º•۝•º°"˜¨¨ It was through a cockney friend of mine that I first heard of San Pedro, 20 years ago. It was during my holidays in Mojacar, not so far north from San Pedro, that my curiosity got me there. To get to San Pedro, I took a bus from Almeria, to Las Negras. Once on Las Negras beach, I turned left and walked over the cliffs, for a good 3 of 4 kilometers along a sometimes very narrow path, by the sea front. Now this is at the same time the advantage, and the disadvantage of San Pedro. It's a long way to bring your shopping and rucksack, but the path is so bad, that you can't even get a bicycle there, so you won't be disturbed by motorised vehicles of any type, during your stay. The first glimpse of San Pedro appears whilst you're on the worst part of the path, on the edge of a 30 metre high drop to the sea with sandy collapsing soil under your feet, and a cliff high above you the other side! I brought my kids here once, as they were really good walkers, but I must point out that it is dangerous, and there have been ...

The Pic du Tantajo, Bédarieux, France 26/01/2008

High in the Sky

The Pic du Tantajo, Bédarieux, France Its an amazing sense of freedom to be right on the top of a dominating mountain, with a 360° panoramic view over miles and miles of valleys, towns, and forest land. The Pic du Tantajo offers this sensation. From the top of this mountain, you'll see the winding river Orb and afar, the sea, which looks like a mirror reflecting the Mediterranean sunshine. At the end of autumn, dried leaves are burnt forming chimneys of smoke here and there, which rise up into the clear deep blue sky, almost as though they were communicating through smoke signals. The vineyards trace their neatly aligned branches, wound around their wire supports, giving green and brown striped parcels of land in the summer, and an array of colours in the autumn months. Orange, red, purple or yellow, each variety boasts its fruity tone. ¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨¨˜"°*♥* °"˜¨¨˜"°*♥*°"˜¨ The distant misty mountains blend with the sky whilst the thick forests essences evaporate, fusing with the heat waves which warp the landscape. The steep and narrow road which leads to the top of the Pic du Tantajo is rarely used, apart from technicians who verify the antenna installations. The main road from Bédarieux, at the foot of the mountain, to Béziers, passes through a tunnel, under the Pic. Behind the antennas, which are surrounded by high fences, the highest point of the rock is mounted by an orientation table which consists of a sculpted black marble slab lying on a ...

Carcassonne Airport, France 16/01/2008

Cathare country Airport

Carcassonne Airport, France Salvaza Airport, locally known as the airport of Carcassonne, "pays Cathare", is situated 4 kilometres west of Carcassonne, just by the Narbonne-Toulouse motorway. There is a commercial zone just next to it, with a supermarket, furniture shop, MacDonald's, and a few hotels. The first thing that is striking when you reach the airport, is its small size. 100 square metres altogether with the departures, and arrival areas. ₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ There is a car park in front of the terminal, and another next to it. Sometimes it is difficult to find a parking space, however, there is a petrol station just behind the car park where you can park for free, and plenty of space in the commercial activity zone. Otherwise the car parks are free for the first half hour. Next to the airport terminal, there is a car rental company. The terminal itself has one small souvenir shop with postcards, wines and a few other local products. Above the shop there is a restaurant / bar, from where you can see the runway and the planes taking off and landing through a thick bullet proof, rather dirty last time I went, window. Drinks and food here are completely over priced, as in most airports. ₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ₪ ₪ ₪ ۝₪ ...

Les Portes du Roussillon, Languedoc, France 11/01/2008

An unforgettable experience

Les Portes du Roussillon, Languedoc, France Last summer (2007) I had my very first experience in a holiday village. I generally avoid over crowded touristic summer holidays, but this time, I couldn't avoid it. An unrefusable offer was made to us, and seeing as my kids got their eyes on the brochure, that was it... I just could not find a good enough reason why we shouldn't go. Les Portes du Roussillon is a holiday village situated in Port Barcarès, on the French Mediterranean coast just north of Perpignan. Stretched out over 14 acres, it consists of a total of 730 beds in 198 "bungalows". ,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸ ¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸, ø¤º°`°º¤ø I arrived very sceptical about the whole thing, especially as we went there with a group of families from our home town, amongst which I only knew a couple vaguely. They all went by bus, but we took our car to be able to get away from the the village as much as we'd need to! My first doubts were very quickly confirmed. As we waited under the sudden rain to be given a key to our "bungalow", plastic bracelets were handed out to us (bright green!). Luckily I realised that if I closed that bracelets popper, it would never come off again, other than with scissors.... So these beautiful bracelets were to prove that we "belonged" to the holiday village, where each section of the village had colored stickers on the corresponding restaurants, nurseries, receptions and even the staff members. After what seemed like a very long wait, watching our "neighbours" being hurried away in all ...

Salagou Lake, Languedoc, France 03/01/2008

Beautiful contrasts

Salagou Lake, Languedoc, France This is the sort of attraction that there is so much to say about, that its quite tricky to know just where to start. Ill try to start at the beginning which seems logical enough, to a time before it existed, as this is a man made lake. The Salagou was originally a stream which led to the river Herault. Both would regularly overflow after heavy rainfalls, flooding the roundabout villages several times a year, whilst the territory to the west, suffered from constant draughts and dryness, making the earth uncultivable. In 1958, the decision was taken to build a dam, and flood the bottom of a valley of 750 acres, on a seven kilometre stretch. By doing so, the western territories could be irrigated, for future fruit and wine production, and the river Herault would stay in its bed. It took 5 years, from 1964 1969 to construct the dam and start filling the future lake with water. The dam measures 62 meters height wise, is 7m42 thick at its base, and 357 meters long. Three years were necessary to fill the valley with 125 million cubic meters of rain water. Roads, bridges, houses and even the castle of Celles were drowned, the village of Celles was evacuated, and saved at the last minute, when the council modified the announced tragedy, by fixing the limit of the lake depth to 139 meters, instead of the 150 meters initially intended. Originally, the dam was supposed to be inspected, by emptying the lake, every ten years. To this day, this initiative has still not been ...

The Cirque de Mourèze, Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon 21/12/2007

Chaotic landscape

The Cirque de Mourèze, Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon Once you turn off the D908 towards Mourèze, the landscape changes from hills of thick oak and pine forest, to a sandy rocky territory. The narrow windy road dodges blocks of flaky limestone rocks until the quaint village of Mourèze appears with its cluttered houses around the church of Saint Marie, topped by the castle. ₪▪♦▪₪ Just west of Montpellier, in the department of Herault, this site is certainly one of the most spectacular displays of natures work that I've ever seen. The Cirque de Mourèze is in fact Europe's' most intact dolomite site, a vast landscape of centuries of erosion, leaving a maze of strangely shaped sculpted rocks, to which the locals have given names such as the Sphinx, the bear or the Sheppard, in accordance with their shapes. ₪▪♦▪₪ The village has two small car parks, one at each end. Off season is of course the best time to visit, as it does tend to get packed in the summer, despite the hammering heat. Once parked, I like to walk through the tiny medieval village, with partly cobbled streets and an impressive church which seems moulded into the rock. Surprisingly, Mourèze has kept its authentic aspect, with only one small shop and very discreet sign posts to the cirque. ₪▪♦▪₪ It's a unique landscape that opens up in front of me, as I leave the village, past the dry riverbed with thick overhanging vegetation. The ground is of sand and the ...

Lunaret Zoo, Montpellier 13/06/2007

A great day out

Lunaret Zoo, Montpellier The Lunaret Zoo is situated in the town of Montpellier, and is easy to reach by bus or tram. It doesn't resemble other zoos much for several reasons. The first thing you'll notice when you visit, is that the entrance is free. You can always donate a few euros to help out with the major animal protection programs that go on here. The second thing you'll notice is that once inside the zoo gates, you find yourself in a shady forest with a choice of paths to explore. There is a children's playground at the entrance, a merry-go-round and an information hut, where you can pick up a map to chose which way to go around the zoo. Unlike other zoos, visitors are not all there to see the animals. Seeing as it is Montpelliers largest open green space, just 3 kilometres from the town centre, many locals come here for a stroll or a bit of jogging. There are wooden sign posts at each crossing to indicate where which animals can be found, and how to find your way out of the zoo. The thick forest, and sometimes long stretches between animal enclosures make that, out of season, you can feel completely lost before coming by the next lot of sign posts! °º"˜¨¨˜"°º εïз °º"˜¨¨˜"°º The zoo is spread out over 80 acres of land, it's more like a safari than a zoo really, but is strictly pedestrian. Bicycles and roller skates or skateboards are forbidden, as well as dogs and all motorised vehicles, although small children get away with little bikes if they stick with their parents. ...

Canal du Midi, Languedoc 09/06/2007

Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi, Languedoc The Canal du Midi, is a man dug canal, situated in the south of France, and joins the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean sea, via the Canal Garonne. The water sources which allow the canal to be constantly navigable, come from the Montagne Noire, (situated in the south west of the Massif Central, near Mazamet, in the Tarn area), by three lakes, and the Saint Ferréol dam. This technical challenge, first imagined in 1539, stayed a project on paper for almost a century, until 1636. ¤ø,¸¸,◊,¸¸ ,ø It was Paul Riquet, an ingenious engineer, born in Béziers in 1604, who started the first portion of the Canal in 1636, under the reign of Louis XIV. The Saint Ferréol dam was built in 1667, and in 1680, the locks at Béziers, called "Les écluses de Fonseranne" were built. Pierre Paul Riquet died that year, and the very first navigation between Toulouse and Sète happened in 1681, the year following his death. ¤ø,¸¸,◊,¸¸ ,ø¤ Needless to explain the difficulty of the task for the workers who achieved this colossal construction. The soul of the problem being that seeing as the water in the canal comes from a series of lakes and dams, the slope necessary for a steady supply of water, enough to fill the canal so that it's depth allows boats to navigate on, had to be very precise. The Canal du midi therefore goes through tunnels and over bridges, down locks and past sleep cliffs! It cost many human lives to build. Originally for commercial cargo use, today the canal ...
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