Hello Again, for the last one (this holiday, anyway!!)
 
I left you last time with the 8 of us heading to Barcelona for their Annual Festival and what a great time it was! Barcelona itself is a lovely old city with an enormous seaport and many winding old streets leading to Placas (plazas) where, during the festival, bands & groups are playing, all for free & all sorts of varieties, modern, classic, Celtic, African, Spanish jazz (Kev hasn't converted), plus loads of street stalls & markets. Then at night we had parades of "giant" effigies up to 5 metres tall portraying Spanish people, old & new, royalty & peasants etc...with the ability to shower you with their choice of water, lollies or fire (the last not so much anymore ---OH&S you know!!!) as they walked past whilst winding around the town...such fun and so lifelike!
 
The 2nd night we were treated to a parade of fire-spewing (sort of) dragons and all types of demonic figures accompanied by teams of "groupie" drummers and other musos playing strange instruments but helping them to navigate the tiny lanes and thousands of onlookers, all of this with no barricades or blocked off streets...just the attitude "we are on our way, you better get out of the way"...and after hundreds of years of doing it this way it works just fine!! We ate huge meals, drank even larger buckets of sangria and giant beers that got served all day and all night!!
 
One of the best times was had at 11.30pm when we attended a Beatles cover band full-on outdoor concert, the music was great and with a few drinks under our belts we were convinced it was really them, yes even the dead ones!! But wait, there's more.. on the morning before returning to our hacienda away from home, we witnessed the amazing skill and abilities of the "falconers & castellos", basically troups of everyday men, women and children (about 4 years young!!) building human pyramids in a variety of displays, all trying to outdo each other, to win the coveted yearly trophies. It was breathtaking, with no safety gear (except tiny tots had to wear helmets) and just pure strength, bravery and determination keeping them all up there (well most of the time, we witnessed some major spills as well), a wonderful way to leave the town that had entertained us for 3 days and 2 nights!!
 
We picked up another traveller in Barcelona (Lyn, a close friend of Sharyn) so the house now contained 9 Aussies for a couple of days, a slightly slower pace after the Festival but still fun. Then we had to split up to travel in 4 different directions some to keep holidaying & some to finally travel home. Gayl, Jeff, Kev & I took one of the cars to a French town called Brantome where we spent 3 lovely days even if the temperature had plummeted, our car kept telling us it was 10C outside at 11am when we had been sitting around the pool the day before in Spain, amazing what 300k north can do!! We had another lovely spacious B & B run by a young French couple in their 30's, who also owned a small cafe next door, brekky was fresh & delicious with all home made jams, cakes etc.
 
Kev chose Brantome as we had visited it before and it did not disappoint again, it is a lovely old typical French country town in one of the prettiest parts of France but, having said that, it also is unique in that it is surrounded by a natural moat created by a water spring that has been filling it for centuries. Also, it is located against a cliff face of limestone full of caves of all sizes (a common theme in this area) where man has dwelled for thousands of years. The town's largest caves had a church and abbey built along the front of the caves and incorporating the caves as part of their structure. This is common for the area and all throughout this town are houses, shops & restaurants all taking advantage of the half cave, half man-made buildings technique...very quirky and fascinating..especially when sitting in a restaurant, very cold dripping water will suddenly give you a little wake up call!! One more claim to fame for Brantome is that it has the oldest, still original, church bell tower in the whole of France, which rings constantly, 12 noon goes for about 15 mins!!
 
Leaving Brantome we travelled on the fast TGV train to Paris via Bordeaux heading towards our plane home....Bordeaux is a great city, very much like Paris but with more spaciousness, very wide roads, plazas & parks stretching along their riverfront. We meet a few locals and they were very friendly & happy to chat, as opposed to their Parisien counterparts!
 
Then onto Paris for our last 2 days....in fact I am typing this while Kev is packing his suitcase....very sad but also we are looking forward to home, no more suitcases and catching up with family (especially the 2 new members) and friends at home!!!
So no more tales (for now!!) and hope to see you all soon...
 
Love
Jan

FRANCE - BRANTOME
PHOTOS BRANTOME/DORDOGNE
Travel Blog by Jan Photography by Kevin
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