Postcard from Itxassou, Basque Region, France

Coming across sleepy villages in France seems to be a common occurrence. Itxassou is one of those villages, or so it appeared to be.

We stopped at the impressive Eglise Saint-Fructueux, a traditional Basque catholic church.

It was built in the 17th century and has a beautifully kept cemetery.

An unusual and unique feature of the graveyard of Itxassou are the headstones, which are disk shaped.

There are some amazing views of the surrounding Basque countryside; and not too far from here you can go white water rafting on the Nive river.

Unfortunately, we did not enter the church, but it has some noteworthy woodwork inside.

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Postcard from Capbreton and Hossegor

South west France and it’s already 22 degrees at 10 in the morning. After a surprisingly pleasant thunderstorm, with light rainfall overnight, the sun has come out.

Capbreton has a certain charm to it. A marina full of all kinds of boats, with many different types of restaurants skirting the edge all the way around to the beach.

There are cycle routes that take you along the marina and on to Labenne through the woods or to the legendary surf town of Hossegor.

If surfing is your thing, then you probably know of the professional surfers competition on October 3 to 13, 2019 (Quiksilver Pro) in Hossegor. A chance to possibly see Kelly Slater, the 11 times world champion. I have actually seen him at the Pro and in the Quiksilver shop when he’s been in town.

There are numerous accommodation types, from camping to hotels and Airbnb’s. I would highly recommend the Mercedes Hotel in Hossegor for its location on the Lac (lake), where the rooms have mini kitchens and most look out over the pool.

Central Hossegor’s Cafe de Paris (below).

For more simple living, the nearest campsite is La Civelle in Capbreton, which has an Epicerie, a pool, bar and snack bar.

Soorts Hossegor (above), with bars and restaurants and even a nightclub by the Atlantic ocean.

Postcard from Guernsey – Good Old Fashioned Fun

Rocquaine Bay, on the south west coast of Guernsey.

Rocquaine Regatta day, with arrival of one of the great rafts for the race. Fort Grey makes a perfect backdrop.

Every year the Rocquaine Regatta on the Channel Island of Guernsey entertains locals and visitors alike. The regatta was first established in 1910 and people can participate in events such as the raft race, swimming races, sandcastle competitions, boat races, scavenger hunt, plus lots more. With no entry fee, it is great for families and a lot of fun.

This year saw the launching of a Viking longship raft. By far it was the most decorated raft, with shields along the length of the ‘boat’.

Beautiful beach to yourself in the summer!

One of several kiosks with stunning beaches beyond.

Guernsey holds quite a few events in the summer; especially popular is the West Show, which will be held on the 14th and 15th August 2019. Although there will be an entrance fee, there is a great variety of entertainment for families and friends to enjoy, such as live music, animals, food stalls, lawnmower racing, to name a few.

St Peter Port is the capital and has a picturesque seafront with restaurants and many shops. It’s worth a visit to this small island.

My Postcards can’t cover all there is to see, but this link will take you on a journey and maybe you will find yourself on this island very soon! http://www.visitguernsey.com

Postcard from Guédelon Medieval Castle, Burgundy, France

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It’s true! Time-travelling in Guédelon, Burgundy is possible! Sort of. Here, you can find yourself absorbed in the rural beauty of northern Burgundy. Close to the vineyards of Sancerre and Chablis, this ‘new’ medieval castle is positioned in an attractive landscape. A team of master builders and volunteers are constructing one of the world’s biggest archaeological experiments.

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Conceived in 1997, the project’s aim was to bring tourism and education to clarify methods employed in 13th century construction. Taking the first year of construction, as if it were the year 1228 AD, the castle is based on the military architectural plans of Philip II Augustus – King of France (1180 -1223) who standardised the plans of castles throughout France.

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You will hear the stonemasons’ tools tap-tap-tapping the sandstone, reviving 800 year old methods. Guédelon uses ferruginous sandstone which must be quarried, shaped, and lifted without the aid of today’s machinery.

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Everything here is dependent upon the skills of its workers – including stonemasons, tilers, blacksmiths, carpenters, wood cutters, rope-makers, millers, and basket-makers. They all hand-craft each and every component. For example, a stonemason is reliant on the carpenter, for the scaffolding and the treadmills which hoist the stones up the walls. All have essential roles to play here.

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There was a very interesting documentary about Guédelon by the BBC a few years ago, with historian Ruth Goodman, called “Secrets of the Castle”. It’s possible to see snippets on YouTube if you care to look! If you can, it’s so worth a visit to this amazing place!

Refreshments are available at a cafe on site and there are picnic areas if you bring your own food. For more information, the website for Guédelon is:

https://www.guedelon.fr/en/

Postcard from The Dordogne

*Just slip into the canoe. You’ll be fine,” they said. Sure. After a mild panic that we were about to go down rapids and putting my leg in the Dordogne river to stop the canoe… just a little bump with another canoe as ours turned sideways. I guess I was ok; after all, the river was barely knee-deep at the ‘rapids’ point!

But the Dordogne is an incredibly beautiful region of France. The meandering river, the blue skies, medieval castles and towns; it’s not a feast, but a banquet for the eyes.

Charming honey-coloured villages decorate the river banks. Beynac-et-Cazenac slopes down to the river, with the looming, fortified Chateau de Beynac perched high above the village. The austere twelfth century castle was briefly conquered by Richatd I of England (also known as Richard the Lionheart), in 1197 until his death in nearby Chalus in 1199.

La Roque-Gageac, above, is a striking village (as seen from my canoe!) which rests beneath a cliff on the north bank of the Dordogne. It is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

The scenery is non-stop. If you’re a happy camper, then you can’t go wrong staying at the Le Capeyrou campsite next to the Dordogne river, just on the outskirts of Beynac.

Postcard from Bran Castle, Romania

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So, it is universally misunderstood that Bran Castle, in Romania, is Dracula’s castle. It (most likely) just conveniently fits the castle description from Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

However, the name Dracula is a derivation of Vlad Dracul, a Wallachian prince (1428 – 1477), and thereby the connection is made to the fictional Count Dracula.

Vlad Dracul II is also known (infamously) as Vlad Tepes – meaning ‘impaler’. Yes, him. Vlad’s grandfather Mircea The Elder of Wallachia occupied the castle at one point, and Vlad was once imprisoned in Bran.

Bran Castle was restored to a royal residence by Queen Marie of Romania, after World War 1. Today, the castle is a museum with a gift shop, and is seen in the style that the queen furnished it.

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The charming village of Bran is also worth a few hours of your time, to at least have lunch or coffee in the restaurants and cafes. The market in the village is (of course) packed full of Dracula souvenirs, masks, cheeses, clothes. But, everything is so inexpensive in Romania.

Bran’s location is approximately 30 km south-west of Brasov, Transylvania.

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Postcard from Paris

I’ve been to Paris on two occasions, both were short visits. It’s overwhelming to try and visit the many different sights it has to offer. Especially in just 2 days! The terrible fire that collapsed the roof of Notre Dame cathedral, in the spring of 2019 was devastating to many people around the world. We stopped to stare in wonder at the magnificent building, as have many tourists (and locals) before the fire. Here you can just see the central spire that is no more.

I understand the rose windows were intact, though.

The beauty of Paris is that you almost don’t have to plan what to see. Yes, the museums are always on my lists when visiting new places, but just taking in the ambiance of the French cafés, watching people go about their business, strolling in the gardens and parks is plenty cultural enough.

Obviously that’s my opinion. It’s hard not to come across the Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe at some point. I managed to fit 3 museums in those two trips: Musée D’Orsay, Quai Branly Museum and Musée de L’Orangerie (the one with Monet’s water lilies). All are excellent museums. The Louvre would have taken far too long in our small window of time.

We stayed in the Grand Hotel Saint Michel, a cosy place to unwind in Sorbonne. The restaurant prices were very reasonable around this area.

Everyone should visit this amazing city at least once in their lifetime, if they possibly can. I have to say it’s my favourite city, so far, on my travels.