Saturday, May 29, 2010


It's OK. We arrived in good time to set up and settle in. Car is parked on safety on the outer ring road, located 50 metres (at the most) from our joint, which is located inside the village up a narrow, winding street that no vehicles other than one scooter that buzzed past the front door, headed up the lane. Again, everything is little, little, little. It's also very small. Find it on Google Earth. It's just over the bridge on the road coming in from the south, and is up the second street on the left. At the end of the curve to the right, we are on the outside of the curve. It is better than grouse. There is provision for al fresco dining out in the laneway and I plan to serve 'Omlette a la Groombles' to the girls on the evening of the morrow (ie tomorrow night). Anyone wish to join us? It will be Sunday night - omlette night!

An evening stroll (read 'ramble') was effected after a sumptuous dish of penne, prepared by two doyennes of the art of culinary, viz Sooz and Jude. Scrummo! Another 'pearler' of a village, I can assure you. Nooks and crannies, 'arcades' to die for. At first glance the town looks small, but a quick reconnoiter reveals quite a sizeable settlement. It seems that all the townspeople were wiped out in the plague of 1359 (or thereabouts - you'll find that I often make dates up, it adds to the authenticity without the need on my behalf to carry out proper research). It seems that these townsfolk have been replaced many times over, because there are heaps running about that I could see.

Who knows what the ensuing week will bring by way of adventures? Stephanie and Jenna Holwell arrive for a few days on Monday. That will be great! More people for me to torment with sick jokes and boring stories. Viva la audience!

Looking forward to our first quiet night after the roaring traffic of Juan-Les-Pins!

Bon Soiree!

Your Tired Rambler


Ville de Malaucene Rambling

We have stopped off at a town near our destination for some provisioning. The girls are in the Carofours because I drive. It is a lovely sunny day and there is a 'fete' on in the carpark for the town's kids. There are plenty of inflatable devices like jumping castles. There is a climbing do-dad with inflatable hand/foot-holds where kids with harnesses attached climb some 20 metres or so. Another inflatable is a horizontal slippery dip about30 metres long. A chap at one end has a hose he is using to keep the device wet, while a pile of screeching younger chaps (viz kids) run along a runway and hurl themselves onto their bottoms, sliding, crashing and slipping into, over and under each other. I would join them, but I have to write this blog. There are buckets of other such inflatable devices (eg jumping castles and slippery dips).

There is no evidence of the kids or their parents paying for any of this. It appears to be a treat offered to the offspring for no particular reason. Maybe the end of winter, moving into the next phase of the year.

Oopsies, I just got squirted.

The laden Jude and Sooz are just back. Gotta get Ramblin' ...!

See yas!


Crowded Rambling

There really are too many people on the planet! I can recall school teacher of mine way back in the mists of time at Macleod High school suggesting that if mice could speak they would all agree that there was a people plague. I am tending to see what he meant.

Compared with the Wide Open Spaces of Sunny Ausralia, places here are cramped. People everywhere. Crammed in together. Despite this population density, however, individuals seem to cope. They make allowances for each other that simply would not happen in Australia. Of you find yourself in the wrong lane coming into a tollway paying place, you just whack on the indicators and move across lanes. No need for eye contact, just do it. VoilĂ ! Done. Fish out your coins, chuck them into the basket, up goes the barrier and you are off again at 132 kph! Utmost cooperation and everyone's a winner. I'm Australia, I tend to think that there would be a great deal of tooting, glaring and fist shaking.

This is sounding like a drving blog, bit really it isn't. It's more about how people adapt to living in close proximity to each other as the population grows into the finite space provided by Mother Earth. You can see it most obvously in places like Shanghai and Hong Kong, but also in market towns such as Aix. It affords a great deal of optimism for countries like Australia that are only in the early throes of population explosion.

This soap box is getting rickety. Too many people vying for travel news and anecdotes. I'll bugger off and let you get on with it.



Getting Connected

It has been most revealing of human nature, this struggle for a connection to the outside world through the ether. It appears that personnel in Orange shops really only make their buffet if they flog enough high-margin phonne products. You can't blame them for this. Jude has observed middle-aged supervisors in Orange T-shirst hovering, watching the Bright Young Things as they deal with customers. It is all very slick, and not much time is available for gents in their latter middle age (eg me) whow is struggling with the language, the Orange system in general, and paying for internet credit in particular.

Stephan helped me last evening. He is the proprietor/owner of our Juan Les Pin hotel. He explained his lack of competence with things electronic, but gave my problem a Red Hot Go. Last evening and early this morning, there was Stephan - struggling away with his landline, my iPhone, his excellent French and my excellent, but virtually useless, English. What a hero he turned out to be! But a failed one, nonetheless. We gave up. Stephan had an hotel to run and I had to run off with two gorgeous sheilas!

Aix-en-Provence was our destination for lunch and a market. I popped into an Orange shop for on the off chance of a Helpful Harry. AND I FOUND ONE! Young bloke, and as helpful AS! He phoned, tapped, connected, took cash, sorted out and completed. What a guy! All that was required was the correct 3-digit dialling number in the finish. Simple!

The girls have popped off to Zara Aix-en-Provence (yes, they have one right here in Aix). I am blogging (as you can see) and following Collingwood's progress against the Lions - a tight match. Half way through the last quarter and, oopsies, Pies down by eight points! However, I am not sad. I have Internet connection and can get our story out to the gang.

Gotta get Rambling!

More later,



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Azure Rambles

The Azure Coast is a little different to the rest of our destinations. Well, really different actually! In fact, no destination could be as different a destination as the destination that is this destination. This is because of:

1. It's by the seaside;
2. It's full of people;
3. It's really noisy and
4. There's no serenity (or tranquility).

Our hotel is very near a train line that runs, most conveniently, along the length of the Azure Coast (AC), from Grasse at the western end, through Cannes, J-L-P, Nice, and on to Monaco. The trouble is that it runs right through our hotel room. That's right, straight through the middle of it. Just as we are enjoying the last vestiges of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) early in the morning. [This, any psychiatrist worth her salt will tell you, is theos important part of a sleep cycle. Lack of it produces a Grumpy Bumpy for the rest of the day.]. The timetable for this train boasts one every 15 minutes at peak hour, absolutely guaranteeing sleep deprivation of the highest, most annoying order!

Mind you, with Susan's arrival we have changed rooms from the double overlooking a patch of Mediterranean (and the train line) to a triple on the other side of the hotel. Here the sounds of the train are somewhat muted ... only to be replaced, sadly, by screeching motor scooters. These latter modes of transport, driven at breakneck speed by the Young do not appear on the roads till well after midday, so the morning sleep has not suffered today. "Why don't you shut the windows and balcony doors?", I hear you cry. I'll tell you: It's way too stuffy; no oxygen; too hot. Anyway, today was a good test. Now that Susan has arrived, things on the sleep front are looking up.

Let me tell you something else about being in Juan-Les-Pins with TWO gorgeous women: walking down the street is fun. You can almost hear the collective dropping of jaws of the blokes who see me sashaying along with a drop-dead gorgeous woman on each arm! Just how jealous can these men (and probably one or two women) be? These observers of my good fortune can only imagine that we are fresh arrivals from one or other of the Huge Yachts that populate the harbour of Antibes, just around the corner from J-L-P. These people are just going to have to Get Over It and leave me to my lucky break. (Gotta feel sorry for them, though.)

We are hopping on the afore-mentioned train today and heading for Monaco via Nice. Should be rather jolly. I'm thinking of buying one of those ship's captain hats to intensify the speculation about how I arrived here. Should cause some consternation amongst the paparazzi and other star-gazers. What do you reckon?



Internet Access

It is with gritted teeth that this Rambler puts finger to screen (ie writes blog on iPhone). You see it is all a problem with the following, in combination:

1. My iPhone,
2. Orange (the mobile phone/Internet provider),
3. Me (a little bit),
4. Orange personnel (not all of them),
5. Orange and (mostly)
6. Orange.

I may have blogged on a previous occasion about the hassle I had obtaining phone/internet access using a prepaid method (as disinct from contract) that is available in most civilised countries in the Known World. Not so in France. Australia? - no problem. Great Britain? - no problem. France? - have another think about it.

It seems that using Internet on your iPhone is very expensive if you access it with ordinary phone credit. Unless you obtain specific Internet access, any amount of credit will quickly disappear if you open a map on your iPhone, or download (without meaning to) your emails. This is the sound that 25-euro amounts make when they are sucked out of your phone, nanoseconds after paying your money across with your Amex card: "wwwhhhooooooosssh". It happened wwwhhhooooooosssh". It happened when we were in Paris: "wwwhhhooooooosssh".

In Paris, after many trips to the Orange shop across town, and at least one, and maybe two "wwhhhooooooosssh"es. I eventually found an Orange employee who possesed the two charcteristics necessary for a total Internet provider assistance package, viz. 1. A willingness to render assistance to a foreigner, 2. A sufficient command of both French and English and 3. An adequate understanding of the services (especially Internet provision) provided by Orange. Surprisingly, it is the last of these that remain the greatest stumbling blocks.

It seems that the Internet access via iPhone can only be obtained by telephone. Think about it. You need someone in the Orange shop to phone on your behalf. THIS THEY WILL NOT DO! They refuse!

Once yesterday I found a person who would do it for me. Yes, a real live Helpful Harry. A really great bloke! He sold me a 25-euro credit pack which "Of course", he said was just what I wanted. Unlimited Internet access for 2 months! No problems! I tried it and it worked!
Of course it worked, but because it was only phone, and not Internet "wwwhhhooooooosssh", off went the 25 euros out into the ethersphere: "wwwhhhooooooosssh"!

I was not daunted. No way. Back I went today to find the Helpful Harry. HH would realise the error immediately, phone Orange for me, retrieve the 25 euros for me and arrange Internet access with another 25 euros - all in a trice! Back I went to the Orange shop in Antibes. Straight there. I knew its exact location.

On entering the shop I quickly noted the total absence of HH. In his stead stood GB - Grumpy Bumpy. No help here. Lots of shrugging as I told my sad tale. No, he would not phone Orange on my behalf. Not his job. My spirits, by this time dragging my chin down past my knees and bound for my ankles, lifted when GB handed me a phone number for a Help Line for English speakers. Great news! I dialled the number on my iPhone, only to hear the (by now well recognised French-speaking recorded voice informing me that I was out of credit! "Why do I need credit to phone the company I wish to buy credit from" (totally forgetting good grammar), I blurted/babbled, infriated, to GB. This time he shrugged again, turning at the same time to talk to his colleague about France's chances tonight in the World Cup opening round ...

I am not daunted. No way. I bought another 5 euro's worth of credit and tried to get through on the English-speaking line while Jude and Susan visited the Picasso Museum. My call would be answered within 8 minutes, the English-speaking French-accented recorded voice assured me. With about 30 second of wait time (by my calculation) to go, three beeps sounded in my ear and a familiar French voice informed me that I was out of credit. Yup, seems that calls to Orange for technical assistance are TIMED CALLS!

I'll leave it there. I have to. I'm working myself into a lather just writing about it. I'm do it eventually. I'll succeed. I just hope that I will not leave France having finally achieved successful Internet iPhone hook-up only to realise that the credit I have purchased covers a vast amount of time that will gradually expire after I have left the country.

Enough moaning, I'm off to bed.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bather Rambling

Today The Ramblers hopped up a bit later in the morning and popped our bathers on. [For those of youse reading this blog in New South Wales, I refer our bathing costumes - cozzies.]

We are at at Juan Les Pins, which is pronounced at break-neck speed by the locals. The day is bright and shiny and many are taking advantage of the sun, the water and the slight warm breeze (but no waves) in various stages of (un)dress. Me, I'm keeping my cozzie on.

Jude and I both had lovely long swims, in turn, each guarding the wallets and passports in the back - first one , then the other. Lots of lolling and sun-screen splashing by the rest of the populace, but not much more in the way of activity.

By golly it would be great to have the whole Tathra Gang here with us. I can almost see Gav and Bloggs an Jude. Belting out to sea, heads bobbing and arms flinging. I had to content myself with just a perve on Dear Jude.

We are off to Antibes by foot this afternoon to suss out a restaurant for dinner.

Stay tuned!


Dear Grandma

Dear Grandma. We have received all your emails and have replied to each of them. Our emails to you are still flapping about in the ether somewhere ... Perhaps one of your many chums will be ae to find them for you.


Ramblers Two

Motor Rambling III

Our car is too wide. All cars in France are too wide. There is just not enough space on the roads to allow one car to negotiate highways, bastide parking, or mountain pass rambling. Let me start at the beginning of yesterday's journey.

Pascal (from Chasteuil) bade us farewell with a suggestion that we visit a hill-top town called Mons on our way down to the coast. Great idea at the time, but after we left the main drag, the road got narrower and narrower and even narrower! This lack of width did not deter on-coming French drivers from rambling at break-neck speed towards us (remember that these dudes are driving on the wrong side of the road - see earlier blog). Millimetres separated
our vehicles at the point of passing. There is only so much room to move over (to the right) before the yawning cliff waits eagerly to swallow you and your wife (Dear Jude) AND your bottles of champagne from Champagne into its rocky, craggy and death-bound embrace. WHOOOSH!!!
JLR: Did you see how close that car came?!!!
GCR: No, I had my eyes closed!

We eventually made it up to Mons, where we took a well-earned toilet and coffee stop. Both were muc neede and much deserved. We also had half a scrummy, oozy cake each. Mons was gorgeous (as most of these towns are), but the road beckoned and we had to get cracking DOWN the mountain. Groombles chose the scenic route. Ooopsies! Here the road narrows down to the width of one car. Just one. NO space for passing. NONE! Toot when going around a bend. Loudly. If confronted with a car coming in the other direction, hope it is spotted before it splats you. Eeeeek!

Although we spied eager walkers heading off for their gorge walks with their walking/hiking sticks (which are very popliar with your French walker), we were never confronted with an on-coming Frenchy or international tourist coming our way, so we never had to stop and reverse into one of the tiny, slightly wider passing places. BUT WE MIGHT HAVE HAD TO!

We did make it to Grasse and then on to Juan Les Pins (or you wouldn't be reading this blog),
with only two off-side bruised tyre walls where I went too far off to the right to facilitate the passage of a hurtling brand-new white Mercedes Benz to go on his way (I could see the whites of his eyes) to his doubtless eagerly anticipated luncheon appointment. I had scraped the walls of the tyres on rocky road borders and fully expected to have to wait for hours by the roadside waiting for the French RACV to come to our rescue. But it didn't happen. Those crafty Renault car designers had cunningly set the tyre-wall-making machinery to "tough" the day our tyres went through the manufacturing process and the remain firmly inflated. Well done guys!

That's all for now. We pick up Susan Anderson tomorrow from the Nice International Airpor (hopefully, given the volcanic ash) and a new Rambling Adventure will begin. I'll be in touch.



Monday, May 24, 2010


Wow! That's all that there is to say about Chasteuil. You need to find it on Google Maps, if that is at all possible. It is near Castellane.

Chasteuil had been a 'must return' promise I had madeyself when I had presented at a conference in Juan Les Pins a couple of years ago (when I was gainfully employed). It had been a Saturday and the conference was finished and I took off on a rental motor scooter and headed for the hills. Got a point when time and the road had run out and decided to head for home. However, a sign on the road pointed up a hill along a tiny single-lane, overhanging with trees road to the village of Chasteuil. Up I screeched on the little scooter, higher and higher till I reached the village. It emerged out of the mist and the trees and stood hauntingly in front of me. A sign indicated that rooms were available in a 'gite' or 'Chambre d' Hotel'. I was stunned. How could a tiny village like this contain a hotel? How wonderful! Time was on the wing, however, and I had to get back to Juan Les Pins...

Long story short, I retraced my steps on Google Earth on my return to Austrslia and made plans to stay at the 'gite' on this current trip. [The hotel has a great website]. Pascal, the owner/operator is a natural born host. A wonderful 63-year-old who made us feel very welcome indeed. His advertised 'light meals' for dinner turned out to be scrummy hearty soups, accompanied by aperatifs, wine and cheese for dessert.

Our room looked out over the magnificent mountains through which we had driven to get there and it was glorious to watch the colours change as the sun came and went throughout the day. Not that there was too much sitting and watching done. Nosirree! There were gorge valleys to be walked, cliffs to be descended to get to them, tunnels to be negotiated (750 metres of pitch blackness - except for the torches Jude remembered to bring) and stairs to help us climb out again. Roaring river below, we completed the 7-hour walk in about 5. A marvellous, but rewarding and tiring experience.

Later in the afternoon we explored Castellane and scaled the lava pipe to a church that seemed to be toppling on to the town some 600-odd metres above. Home soon after that to the second of Pascal's 'light' dinners.

On both nights at Chasteuil the hotel was full. It holds 10 people (5 couples) in total. We all ate dinner together, sitting around a huge table, looking out over the mountains through enormous open windows. Four of the guests were from Leipzig in northern Germany and were about my age (not Jude's). They were very interesting people, fond of travel, but having Bern brought up the other side of the Iron Curtain. All their travel prior to the fall of the wall was to other Eastern European destinations, though these days they are able to travel much further abroad. Their lives (and their travels) were funded by payments that were owed to them while working 'free' for the government over many years. Suzanne had been a chemical engineer and her husband Heinz had worked for the government and was now on a pension. All too much to take in, really. I wish I had more time to spend with them.

... But we had to get Ramblin' and say 'Hoo Roo' to Pascal and his chums and head off to Juan Les Pins, where we are now. Gotta go! See youse later!