Le Promenade de Anglais beside the Mediterranean Sea  in Nice


This interesting alley was full of flower shops and other nice things

Brian and Lynn Tonkin's tour journal
Four flights between one bedroom and the next was not a good idea but 52 elapsed hours after getting out of bed in Nambucca we finally collapsed into our moderately shabby but nonetheless welcome hotel room here in Nice.

We experienced two security incidents along the way. There was an hour's delay outside the gate lounge in Sydney whilst about 20 cops and security personnel went through our aircraft from stem to stern looking for.... we know not what!! Then in Paris Airport we were held up for 30 minutes and could not get to the appropriate terminal for our connecting flight because a whole lot of soldiers with armoured special vehicles were in the process of blowing up an abandoned or lost piece of luggage. However at that stage we didn't understand what was actually going on. After a while we heard a referees whistle and lots of the crowd put their fingers in their ears. I thought they were pretty sooky because the whistle wasn't particularly piercing. Then suddenly KABOOM.... some explosive went off. Seemed to do the trick however because shortly afterwards we were deaf but mobile and able to walk across to the terminal building we needed. These two totally unexpected delays emphasised the wisdom of keeping our connections along the way fairly loose and  conservative. Accordingly we didn't stress out about maybe missing any connecting flights as a result of the delays.

Next day we went walking in Nice and made our way through the Old Town to the waterfront. Unfortunately there was a lot of heat haze which didn't make for great photography but we enjoyed strolling through alleys of small food shops, fabrics, trinkets and wonderful pottery. So many pieces of pottery in chic designs and lovely bright colours. The prices were good too. If only pottery wasn't so bulky and heavy. Talking of prices, things are sooooo much dearer than on our previous trips to France. In fact, although there are a few exceptions on both sides of the ledger (like pottery), for the most part the prices of most things in France are now double the equivalent Aussie price... sacre bleu! We've just had to grit our teeth and try not to think about it.


As usual Lynn is drooling over the patisserie displays

A serious demonstration? Perhaps, but everyone was enjoying it big time

We love the way so many French folks decorate windows & balconies

"Excusez moi monsieur, is zere room for my 3 metre sailing dinghy?"

Call this a beach? I think they must be dead

Our Citröen C5 - Good looks but shitty seats

We just wanted something simple for dinner and we found this hole in the wall with two tables just around the corner from our hotel which sold kababs and similar junk food. You could just buy a kabab or you could take the the "meal deal" so to speak which included a kabab + chips + drink. The meal deal was much better value so Brian took it. You should have seen his face when the kabab arrived complete with two handfuls of soggy chips rolled up in the centre of the kebab. Not at all tasty.

The weather here in southern France is currently very hot with day temperatures of 26 to 32. We're glad that we've brought our shorts, tee shirts and sandals. In this weather we'd rather be out of city alleys and escape to the country. In due course we "purchase" our brand new Citröen C5 on a special French deal for foreigners where they buy it back at a pre-agreed price at the end of the period. It's a way of escaping sales tax and works out well price-wise for periods of 3 weeks or more. And it's always nice to get a brand new car. You've got to make all the arrangements before leaving Australia however. Well our Citröen C5 has a sleek and sexy external appearance but we just hate the uncomfortable seats. Hopefully we'll get used to them in time.

We set off for Vance up in the foothills just north of Nice. Lynn had selected this  town as worthy of exploration but the only parking we could find had a 20 minute limit which was no more than enough time to buy a takeaway panini for lunch. Hello Vance and goodbye Vance. So much for Vance. It's a syndrome we've encountered in Europe on a number of occasions over the years but who wants to drive around narrow alleys for an hour or park a kilometre away down a steep hill? C'est la vie.


Anyone up for a nice plate of tripe?

Sometimes it almost seems like we've stumbled into Tuscany

We encountered numerous hillside villages along our route

A busload of snap happy photographers in Moustiers

The next couple of hours required acute concentration on Brian's part, not to mention a saintly mention for his tolerance. We were climbing into the hills towards Haute Provence (i.e. the higher northerly regions of Provence). The roads were very narrow and with precipices at one's elbow. Many of you will not know that Lynn is totally unable to judge distances and everything seems much closer than it really is. This has led to thousands of false alarms over the years and today was a very notable example. "Brian, you're too close to the edge.... move back to the centre.... watch this oncoming car.... move over..... NOT SO FAR, you'll take us over the edge.... watch out for the culvert..... slow down (I'm only doing 30 kph), don't pull off here it's too narrow. you're sticking out onto the road.... put on the warning flashers.... you can't stay here.... forget the bloody photograph!

The mountain scenery was magnificent although Brian saw very little of it as he gripped the wheel with all his might and concentrated every cell of his brain. Yes the first day of driving in Europe can be very stressful whilst the brain adapts itself to previously learned "right had side of the road" reflexes.

We eventually arrived at Castellane, a charming little village on a lovely river with a huge rock monolith towing above us. A tiny miniature chapel sits atop this tall peak and can be visited by both the pious and the foolhardy. It's a hard two hour vertical climb for muscular European hikers and at least a day's journey for your intrepid Aussie tourists.... mind you, the latter is merely an estimate for the sake of this newsletter.

This is probably an appropriate time to mention that neither of our Bank key cards will work in the local machines!! A little bit stressful? You betcha!! One can hardly travel for a month on credit cards alone and having 50 Euros in your pocket will barely buy one a handful of candles in the local church! A call to our bank elicited the response that everything looked fine and we shouldn't be having a problem drawing cash out of our account. But we were. And every new failed attempt to get some dough made it more likely that an ATM would eventually gobble our card. Next day another call back to Australia (thank goodness for Skype) and a different help desk person complete with broad Kiwi accent at first said "it ought to be working fine". "Well it aint", says I. "Ok let me dig a little deeper.... hey I think I've found the problem coz there's a setting in here which could cause problems with ATM machines in some European countries. If I change it you should cooking with gas after the bank's overnight update?" And so it was. What a relief! Three cheers for Kiwis.

We took a day trip driving around the Gorges du Verdon which is like a French version of the Grand Canyon in the USA and equally spectacular. It was also terrifying for Lynn given her aversion to heights and inability to judge distances. All very hairy indeed but there was little traffic on this (theoretically) one way road and Brian just chugged along at 10 to 20 kph through one hairpin bend after another. Unfortunately the air-conditioner was fogging the inside of our camera lens on this very hot day and most of our photos were spoiled.

Later in the day we visited Moustiers on the recommendation of a friend. It was a cute little village but full of tourist buses on this day. Furthermore, the hot sun was also beating down big time so we only lingered for an hour or so.

We've very much enjoyed our stay in Castellane. Our hotel room was better than we'd anticipated with views way beyond  our expectations. The Staff have been most courteous and the hotel's cuisine has also been excellent. We'd recommend this spot to anyone touring Provence.

Both Brian and Lynn have been suffering from colds and nagging dry coughs since arriving in France but signs suggest that we may now be on the mend at last.


A typical alley view in Castellane

Almost every French village has a crucifix at each end of town

Our hotel offered great food in a lovely outdoor setting

Our Castellane hotel was located just to the right of the bridge

A view from the window of our Castellane hotel room

An advertisement for some Aussie made underpants perhaps?

On this particular holiday tour we have been making relatively short hops between hotels and staying longer in each town. We just don't have the energy for the intensive itineraries and long mileages which have characterised our driving tours of the past. It was a very wise decision too. We just wouldn't have been able to sustain a more demanding itinerary this time around. Yet another sign of the aging process.

After 3 days in Castellane we moved on into the Luberon-Vaucluse regions in Provence, making our way to the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse. The countryside is now more undulating with green fields, vegetable and fruit farms. We must be in the centre of the cherry growing region because we've driven past a million cherry trees all laden with fruit from cream through pink to bright red. Our guess is that there will be a massive cherry harvest during the coming month and we are probably about two weeks too early.

We're delighted with our lodging here in Fontaine de Vaucluse. The boutique size Hotel du Poete has lovely spacious and well equipped rooms with wonderful panoramic views and landscaping to die for. This town is at the foot of a mountain which gushes out a vast amount of underground water. Channels of water weave their way all through the village. They also flow through many properties including our own hotel. It's simply delightful and we'll be pleased to spend the next five days in this location.


Another view from our Castellane bedroom showing Le Roc & chapel

Interesting rock formations along our route to Fontaine de Vaucluse

Our Fontaine de Vaucluse hotel looked down on this pool.

Another great view from our hotel room in Fontaine de Vaucluse

I'm afraid this "simple little newsletter" has become a bigger and more time consuming operation that originally planned and we'll probably have to be less ambitious in subsequent instalments. Nevertheless we hope it has been a small welcome diversion for readers. It serves as our own personal journal which would never get done if we left it until after we got home. And by writing it progressively as we move along it gives us the chance to share some of our vacation experiences with you at the same time.

We hope the photos on this webpage are not too dark or too washed out. Laptop screens are notoriously unreliable for processing photos for web use. This time around the problem is further complicated by the fact that Brian is using a new laptop acquired just prior to this trip. Hence he has no feel whatsoever for the screen idiosyncrasies of the new machine. We'll cross our fingers and hope that the photos don't disappoint when viewed at your end.

Meanwhile, we send love and best wishes to all our family and friends....  ā bientôt.