Tag Archives: France

BERGERAC – the town with the big fake nose

Cyrano - Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing the role at Sydney Theatre Company.

Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing Cyrano for Sydney Theatre Company many years ago. And is that Roxane at the window?


‘How long will it take us to find a statue of Cyrano in Bergerac?’ I ask as we drive into that French town.

Though there was once a real Cyrano de Bergerac who inspired Edmond Rostand’s classic play about the poet with panache and protruding proboscis, there’s no reason to think he ever visited the town in his lifetime.

That doesn’t stop Bergeracians cashing in on his reputation. We park in front of Boulangerie Cyrano, drink café in Café Cyrano, walk a block and find the man himself in front of Maison Cyrano. Continue reading

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LOURDES – no quick fix

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on people's gullibility?

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on the gullibility of desperate people?

I find Lourdes disturbing.

It worries me that some people can be so credulous as to think that making a visit to a town in the south of France on Planet Earth, circling an undistinguished star on a remote arm of the Milky Way galaxy, will somehow bring them closer to the creator of the universe.

And it worries me to find myself scoffing at something which is apparently at the core of some people’s lives. Continue reading

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THE TALE OF THE LAGUIOLE KNIFE – were we skinned?

If a deal is too good to be true...?

If a deal is too good to be true…?

Browsing the brocante market in the French town of Bergerac, our friend Carla spots a bargain.

It’s a Laguiole sommelier’s knife, brand new, still in its box. In a typically kind and generous gesture, she buys it (‘for a song,’ she assures us) and presents it to me as a gift. Continue reading

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WALKING AND SHOOTING WITH A PYRENEES EXPERT

Nobody knows the Pyrenees walks better than Ton Joosten.

Nobody knows the Pyrenees walks better than this man.


Back in 2006 some friends and I walked a week-long section of the Haute Route in the Pyrenees. The guidebook and maps we followed then had been prepared by Dutch hiker Ton Joosten, an expert in the area.

This week it’s a coincidence, a privilege and a pleasure to find myself walking in the Pyrenees with the man himself there in person as our guide.

Ton is not only a guidebook writer, he’s also the cook, housekeeper and host of his guesthouse Le Petit Refuge in the village of Ayet, Bethmale Valley, where he offers guest accommodation and guiding.

If any bonus were needed, he’s also a superb landscape photographer. So I’ve been standing close to him, trying to pick up a few pointers. I’m pleased with some of the results. It’s hard to take a poor shot in this wonderfully varied terrain. Continue reading

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A FRENCH MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.


‘A Jacques Tati square,’ our walking mate Peter calls it. We know exactly what he means.

We sit outside the boulangerie in St Martin sur Vesubie with our early morning cafe and pain au chocolat and watch as the village comes to life, its characters coming and going like figures in a mechanical clock.

Nobody seems in a hurry, including us. We have several hours to kill before the bus will take us back to Nice. Continue reading

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HOW TOUGH IS A WALK ON THE GR5?

St Delmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down.

St Dalmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down from here, but it’s where the nearest cafe is waiting.

It’s hard to describe for non-walkers the experience of hiking one of Europe’s great trails, the GR5 over the French Alps.

Here’s my best effort to compare it to an exercise anyone can try at home… Continue reading

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HEADING FOR THE HILLS – back soon

The French Alps, mostly wi-fi free.

The French Alps, mostly a wifi free zone.

We apologise for this break in transmission. Do not adjust your set.

I’ll be somewhere in France for the next week, walking roughly southwards along the mighty GR5 route from St Paul-sur-Ubaye, hoping to emerge at St Martin-sur-Vesubie. There’ll be refuges with food, beer, wine and beds along the way, but I don’t expect to find internet access very often.

The Dutch footballers in Brazil will have to struggle on without my help. I’ll be back in time for the final.

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