Northern Spain was a total contrast to where we had spent the last couple of months.
As we left the coast at about Valencia the country side started to soften. Of course rainfall makes a huge difference to the environment and it was wonderful to watch it occur so dramatically within the course of the trip.
|Red trousers in Teruel|
Our first stop was Teruel a town in a rather remote, mountainous part of the Southern Aragon region. A town that suffered huge destruction during the Spanish civil war and one of the bloodiest battles. But is also home to a group of Mudejar momuments now declared a World Heritage Site.
Next night we stopped in Elizondo, but arrived early enough to have two or three hours exploring the place, in the Baztan region of northern Spain. A gorgeous picturesque town built on the banks of the Baztan River, in the Atlantic Pyrenees.
Set in an idyllic surrounding of lush green paddocks with content cattle grazing, even the stones used to build the walls surrounding the paddocks gave a feeling of permanence.
The size and structure of many of the houses were amazing - the town is noted for its large number of mansion houses. Most of which used to belong to local people who emigrated to America and wanted to leave a legacy of the fortunes they made.
After half an hour on the road we were in France. So easy no need for passports or such these days, the change in language as we paid the motorway toll was the only giveaway.
|Inglis's family home|
|Julia(cousin),Sandy, Ilda, Zara, Baguette, Margot and Nick|
Fours hours north and a few country roads later we found La Crèche, about 13 kms from Noirt, and were thrilled to see the NZ flag flying.
Old friends from Lyttelton NZ , had been traveling the world, mainly Africa, for eighteen months and have now settled back in France. What a joy to see them and their gorgeous girls who have grown up so much.
They have renovated a classic old French Farmhouse, in which Ilda's father grew up, and are now in the process of doing the rest of it. What a project but what a glorious spot they are creating.
The French/South African hospitality was delightful, even being treated with an early morning cup of tea from eight year old Zara.
|Sandy and Nick|
|David found a rest spot|
|Built in 1470 and still open for coffee|
Sandy got us out on the mountain bikes, nothing too strenuous, but what a fabulous way to see the countryside as we followed the river Sevre about ten miles downstream to St Maixent L'Ecole. A delightful town with many buildings dating back to the 15th century, even the building just above the cafe we stopped at was built in 1471. Here we encounted an enthusiastic frenchman, who with a huge smile and a flail of arms delighted in yelling "Ah zee All Blacks oui, oui" when he discovered we were from New Zealand. Can't remember having a welcome like that before in France.
|Abbey in Saint Maixent L'Ecole|
A 'lavoir', open air communal wash house -many of these ancient laundry's have been restored throughout the country.
|Sandy and David confessing their sins|
The town is also home to a magnificent Abby where the boys were forced into confessing their sins!
In true French style, a delicious five course lunch under the apple tree.
|Margot baking chocolate cake|
Margot baking her own birthday cake.
|Hard at work|
Sleeves rolled up, Sandy and David sanding and painting shutters and doors.
|Temptations in La Rochelle|
Spent a few hours at the wonderful Niort market, where we bought some delicious local cheeses, bread and fruit for a picnic down on the waterfront in La Rochelle. Then enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon wandering through the town with many other tourists. It is regarded as one of the most picturesque cities on the Atlantic coast, full of beautifully maintained historic buildings and doesn't disappoint.