The journey to St Emilion

From Chevanceaux we decided to take a long detour and visit the village of Brantome in the Perigord region on the recommendation of several friends.

Brantome is on the banks of the River Dronne and is known as the Venice of Perigord. The feature of the village is the beautiful Benedictine abbey.

The village is a tourist destination and has many shops and restaurants to visit.

I loved the hams hanging the in their red bags inside this little shop.

Water surrounds a very small island on which the village is located. Very pretty indeed.

From Brantome we drove down to our next destination near St Emilion in the Gironde region. We are very much looking forward to exploring this area over the coming week. It is primarily a wine producing region and about 50 km from Bordeaux.

Too our delight we are now staying in Gite le Lys in a gorgeous vineyard just out of St Emilion. It is just beautiful!

The garden and vineyard, which comes right to our door, is so beautiful. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

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We are now staying in Chevanceaux in Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region in southwestern France.

We have again chosen well and are staying in a lovely cottage ‘Gites de la Camus’ on the outskirts of Chevanceaux.

The landscape has changed from the Loire Valley and we are in rolling hills now.

Let me show you a few of the pretty villages we have found.


Our first stop was Jonzac so that I could attend the Patchwork & Embroidery Expo. Jonzac’s history dates back to the ancient romans and in recent times the town has reinvented itself as a popular spa centre. The most notable building in town is the 15th century Chateau de Jonzac which is under wraps as it is currently undergoing a major restoration.


Built on the side of a steep hill above the Dronne River, Aubeterre is a very pretty village and is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is only a small village and we were there at Sunday lunchtime. The diners were enjoying the sunshine.


We found Cognac a very easy city to walk around. It is a much larger town and seems to be a very prosperous with a well maintained town centre and shopping avenues.

We wondered through the lovely gardens making our way down to the Charente River.

And yes, of course we visited a couple of Cognac houses. It was before lunch and we still had to drive home so we decided not to the the tasting tour. Maybe next time. Some of the prices for the premium Cognac’s were eye-watering.


Chateau de Cognac

We are packing up today and moving down to the St Emilion area.

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Patchwork & Embroidery Expo in Jonzac

My friend Anne, who used to live in this area of France, told me about a patchwork and embroidery quilts exhibition that would be on while we were in the area. As we were staying close by I hoped to get to see the expo. Thanks for the tip Anne.

The exhibition was held upstairs in this lovely building.

Here are just some of the quilts on display. Many of them include an element of embroidery as well as traditional hand piecing and hand quilting. Some used the more modern technique of machine pieced and machine quilted.

Unfortunately each of the quilts had a spotlight shining on them so it made it difficult to photograph them well, but I’m sure you will enjoy seeing them anyway.

I am very pleased to have found the exhibition and really enjoyed chatting to once of the volunteers who could speak English.

Next I will give you a guided tour of the villages in the area.

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A Drive in the Countryside

We crossed the Loire River and took a drive into the countryside on the south side of the river. There are many little hamlets surrounded by farmland.

The rolling hills are a patchwork of paddocks growing everything from grapes, grains, canola, garlic, corn and more.

Whilst the paddocks are small the yields appear to be very good. There is very little land left idle; as soon as one crop finishes they are preparing the land for the next.

Driving does have a few challenges – like navigating your way through small town entrance walls.

But it is always worth the stress.

Pretty chateau dot the countryside, many you can’t see.

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Saumur and the Mushroom Caves

The dominant feature of the Saumur skyline is the Chateau. Over the centuries the chateau has been used as a palace, garrison and a prison, and is now a museum housing many collections of French history.

From the chateau walls there are impressive views back over the city and to the other side of the river.

Saumur is a very lively town with a population of about 30,000 residents. It has a great range of shops, restaurants and cafes and is very easy to walk around. We loved it here.

On the outskirts of Saumur are quite a few mushroom caves that are still being used to produce a wide variety of mushrooms for the French market. The cave we visited was a cool 14 deg C which apparently is the perfect temperature for growing mushrooms.

Some are grown in hanging bags, some in circular bags on the floor and others in large growing trays.

Here are just some of the varieties grown.

These few looked totally unappetising.

Next we are off to the countryside for a drive.

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Our home in Loire Valley

We are staying in the lovely little riverside hamlet of Saint Clement des Levees. It is located on the north side of the levee bank of the Loire River and about 10 km west of Saumur. Our hosts Colin and Myriam have called in to say hello and provided us with a bottle of bubbles as a welcome gift – and very nice it was too. Our cottage is pretty much in the centre of this first photo.

We have a Citroen C4 auto diesel to get us around. Here it is parked outside our cottage.

On the ground floor we have the kitchen, lounge and bathroom and on the top floor is two bedrooms and a toilet. It is very comfortable and has everything we need – washing machine, wifi and kitchenette.

Two seperate garden areas provide lovely outdoor spaces for that afternoon aperitif.

The river is right over the road.

We have mostly been eating out at lunchtime and then coming home to a light meal of an evening … very French! This way we can enjoy a glass of wine without having to drive.

Our lunch at Rouge Bistro, just up the road, with their three course lunch special was very good, as have all our meals been.

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Loire Valley

We have been out exploring a couple of nearby villages and taking in the local sights. We are getting used to the driving again (both driver and passenger) so the small narrow streets in the villages are no longer hair raising. Let me show you around the first three villages we have visited.


Angers (I think the translation to Australian would be “Onjay”) is on the Maine River and is a large city with a population of about 150,00 inhabitants. We strolled the city following the tourist guide and here is some of what we saw.

On our way we came across the Museum of Modern Art. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder….I must be getting old!

One of my favourite things to find in France are the little local markets. We found this one in Angers and as usual in France the produce looked fabulous.

Candes Saint Martin

At the point where the Vienne and Loire rivers join and not far from where we are staying is Candes St Martins. Classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France it is usually a very popular tourist destination, but we visited on Whit Monday, which is a public holiday here in France, and the town was very quiet. It was a bit of a shame really, as none of the shop were open, only a couple of restaurants.


This was another of the towns we visited on Whit Monday. Very quiet but a pretty town nonetheless.

We are looking forward to continuing our backroads touring and finding some more lively villages as we go along.

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Villandry Chateau and Gardens

Once I knew were here going to the Loire Valley, I knew we had to visit these magnificent gardens. I had seen and heard so much about them. We were not disappointed. Whilst the Chateau is lovely to see the gardens are spectacular, I’m sure you will agree.

Originally a fortress, since the 12th century, extensions in the Renaissance, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries has lead to the chateau we see today.

But it is the gardens that are absolutely fabulous. A team of only 10 full time gardeners maintain the gardens. The box hedges cover 30 km, all of which are pruned twice a year. There are 115,000 flowering and vegetable plants – many of which are changed to suit the season. And the 1,015 European linden trees, which make up most of the tree lined avenues take 4 of the gardens three months to prune in winter.

I of course took a gazillion photos but are only showing a few below.

If I had the opportunity I would revisit Villandry over the four seasons to see the every changing plantings. I do hope that I will have the opportunity to return one day.

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Exploring Paris

There were two places we wanted to visit today and again thankfully the weather has been glorious. It would be nice to think that it will stay this way for the 6 weeks we are in France.

Heading off this morning our first stop was the Jardin du Luxembourg. Construction of the palace and gardens began in 1611 for Marie de Medici, widow of King Henry IV. The 23 hectares is mostly lawns (which you are not allowed to walk on) with tree lined avenues and flower beds. The garden is in between seasons at the moment so many of the gardens beds were being prepared for their next show of annuals.

From the gardens we wondered off to visit the Saint Germain area of Paris. First stop was the market.

Along the way there were interesting shop fronts – the reflections in the windows made it hard to photograph so the quality isn’t brilliant.

Electric charging stations are on the footpaths.

These two gardens took my eye.

Our short stay in Paris is over and we have loved staying at Hotel Etats Unis Opera. We would highly recommend it. It is about 300 metres from the Opera Garnier, the famous opera house of Paris and Galeries Lafayette, the original luxury department store. It is close to transport links and there are many restaurants close by.

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Paris in Spring

Since arriving in Paris the weather has been perfect – 23 deg with no wind and plenty of sunshine.

On the first day we toured on the Hop On Hop Off bus and river cruise to reacquaint ourselves with the layout of the city.

The iconic Eiffel Tower is high on the list of must see things in Paris. I was surprised at how many tourists are travelling – the buses and cruises were full and the queues long.

Notre-Dame is still shrouded in construction scaffolding with quite a few very large cranes perched above her. The tour guide says Notre-Dame will be reopening in December 2024, 5 years after the fire, but that appears a little optimistic.

Driving up the Champs Elysees toward the Arc de Triomphe you pass lovely tree lined gardens and then onto the cities exclusive restaurants and high end fashion houses like Dior and Louis Vuitton.

The detail on the buildings around Paris is very stylish.

From the river you pass so many buildings that are significant in the history of France.

With so many traffic and pedestrian bridges crossing the Seine River they seem to be only a few hundred metres apart – their style determined by their construction date.

There are many tree lined streets and green spaces to relax in.

It is great to be travelling and to be back in Paris. Tomorrow we are off to explore areas that we have not previously visited.

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Delicious Delights

We visited the recently opened Maison Lassiaille for coffee and cake. What a delight. Very friendly management and staff and the cakes and pastries were delicious. At the moment they are only opening on the weekend so make sure you time your visit well.

They have a range of other French products for sale as well including terrines, biscuits and lollies.

Visit their website for more details including opening hours and special event cakes.

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Some more wildflowers

As we travel further east we are seeing less wildflowers. I have taken so many photos but here is a selection of my favourites.

We are a little late to see the best of the orchids but we did see these beauties.

There has been endless patches of colour.

It is a great year to be out exploring WA.

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Wildflowers 2021

2021 has seen good rainfall in the northern wheatbelt so not only are the crops looking exceptional but so are the wildflowers. We are away for a couple of weeks in the caravan exploring the area.

Our first stop was to visit family in Northampton. Whilst the town is still struggling to recover from Cyclone Seroja which hit back in April, the wildflowers this year are a joy. Pink everlastings and yellow posies carpet the ground and there is such a variety of other flowers.

East of Northampton the colour changes to mostly white.

But the highlight so far has been to see the wreath flowers at Pindar which are prolific this year. As they say ‘just add water’ and nature is amazingly beautiful.

I’m sure there will be more to see along the way.

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Beautiful Wildflowers

After wondering if we would ever get away again this year in the caravan, we are finally on the road and looking forward to seeing the wildflowers and getting into some warmer weather.

We timed it with watching the West Coast Eagles win over Greater Western Sydney in Perth and are staying for a few days around Wongan Hills before heading north to catch up with family who are also on the road in their caravans.

Our first stop was Noble Falls.  The water is flowing and it was a very peaceful rest stop.

Further north the canola is in full bloom.

In Wongan Hills there are several walk trails that are putting on a colourful display at the moment. The Wongan Wildflower Walk and the Christmas Rock Walk trails are both putting on a good display of colour at the moment.

And there was a lot of delicate orchids to be seen.

Christmas Rock on the edge of town was once the water collection point for the steam trains that serviced the area and beyond. Small walls were constructed around the rock and then the water was channelled into a dam to be used by the steam engines.

From the lookout at Mt O’Brien the farmland is either a lovely crop green or that distinctive Canola yellow.

The weather is gloriously warm and our next stop is Payne’s Find.

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It was worth the walk

After some rain this morning, the day improved and we had some sunshine, so we decided to do the walk to Quinninup Falls. We had not been there before and thought it would have water flowing after the last day to two’s rain.

From the Moses Rock Beach carpark you follow the Cape to Cape trail north for about 1.6km. When we left the weather was pretty good, but windy, and the ocean was thumping.

After the rain the track was wet and slippery in places.

The scenery from the track as it winds it’s way up and down the rocks and dunes is stunning.

After the 1.6 km you turn inland for 300 metres and it is from here that you can see the top of the falls. It is not until the end of this track that the main fall reveals itself.

Along the way there are signs of spring.

We made it back to the car before a few sun-showers came through.

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The Final Leg of our Trip

After leaving Carnarvon we stayed overnight at Hamelin Pool. Our Cowaramup neighbours are on school holidays and on their way north for some warmer weather. They timed it well and called in to have their lunch with us and we walked down to the boardwalk to see the stromatolites,‘living fossils’, one of only two places in the world with living marine stromatolites. It was pretty cold and windy and we made it just before the rain set in.

Our next few of days we spent with family on the farm at Ogilvie, near Northampton. We had time together, the kids toasted marshmallows and walked and swam in the creek. Such fun!

We stayed in Perth for a couple of days to catch up with more family and go to the footy on Friday night. WCE lost by 1 point and Jamie sustained an injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks, so not such a good game for us.

It was fairly chilly as the sun went down but I must say it is a very impressive stadium.

We have arrived back home today to a very lovely winters day in Cowaramup. Heater is on now, the chooks are safely away for the night and we have our feet up and are enjoying a very nice drop of local wine.

Thanks to our neighbours Lisa & Joel and Bec & Maz for looking after our chooks. We really appreciate it.

Trip stats:

Source: WikiCamps Trip Planner

11,153 kms – the distance travelled between towns.
13,450 kms – the total distance travelled including sightseeing.

We have been away for 2 months and definitely need to return to enjoy it all again.

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Karratha & Carnarvon

After leaving Broome we stayed overnight at a camping spot on the De Grey River. Great place to break up the drive to Karratha.

Since leaving the De Grey the countryside has changed and it is much greener now.

The Yule River has a little bit of water – the cocky’s screeched in for a morning drink without disturbing the other birds who were just relaxing in the sunshine.

Karratha is a surprise, we haven’t been here for years, and the high rise buildings are new. It has certainly changed.

It was so lovely to catch up with our neice Zora, Will and the kids, who live in Karratha. We dined out at the yacht club and got to watch the footy on Saturday with them. It was a good win, especially since Jamie kicked the winning goal for WCE. Yeah!

Will took us on a tour of the port at Dampier and the Burrup. He works out at the port so had all the local info for us. Primarily the port services the export facilities for the mining, gas and salt industries.

The rock formations around Karratha and Dampier are quite different to anywhere else we have been….some appear to have been dumped by a tip truck, but apparently they are natural formations.

After leaving Karratha we stayed a couple of nights at Yannarie River, a free camp about half way to Carnarvon. The lovely white river gums are such a contrast to the riverbed.

Sunset and sunrise were just a spectacular.

It was here that we noticed our first tyre puncture on the caravan for the trip. Somewhere we have picked up a nail but fortunately the tyre deflated while we were in the camp.

It is amazing how much the weather can change in 300 kms. Arriving into Carnarvon we have had to dive back into the wardrobe to find the jumpers. Much cooler now and more to come.

The fishing boat harbour was busy – I know you can’t tell from the photos – but the boats all had workers busy with nets, equipment or the boat itself.

On the fertile banks of the Gascoyne River a large variety of fruit and veges are grown along North and South River Roads, known as the ‘Fruit Loop’. Several have stalls so that visitors can purchase freshly harvested produce.

Our final touristy thing was a visit to the Space & Technology Museum. The museum houses two main exhibits. The Carnarvon Tracking Station was built to allow communications on NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab missions. During its eleven year operation from 1964, it was the largest manned space flight tracking station outside the USA and at its peak had a staff of 220 people. The OTC Satellite Earth Station was opened in 1966 to house the Casshorn antenna which transmitted the first pictures live via satellite to London from Australia. Subsequent upgrades allowed NASA to relay communications across the Pacific Ocean.

The good weather is still holding out for us – but the reports are showing rain tomorrow.

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Derby & Broome

Derby was the base for our Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventure so we had a couple of days there. The main street is lined with boab trees.

Derby’s claim to fame is that it has the highest tides in Australia, with approximately 11 metres difference between low and high tide.

It is also close to the start or finish (depending you which direction you travel) of the Gibb River Road. This road is a 660km 4WD track from Derby to Kununurra and has some spectacular gorges and sites along the way. At the moment we have heard that the gravel road is very, very corrugated making it quite difficult and slow travelling. We did not take this road.

The scenery on the highway between the two towns was much the same we we have seen previously. The termite hills stand out in the paddocks like headstones in a cemetery.

And then we arrived in Broome and are staying near the beautiful Cable Beach.