Saturday, October 28, 2006

Agen on the bikes.

The weather forecast said that today should be warm and sunny again, so we decided that we would take a drive out on the bikes and head for Agen to the south of us. It should have been around 180 miles there and back, as is normal we got a little distracted.
Passing through Belves, we stopped next to this very old church to check that the GPS on the bike was telling us what the map said. It was, but we took the chance to have a breather and let the little old man check out the bikes.
A few miles further on we came into the town of Monpazier. The sign said that it was a Bastide (fortified) town, so we decided to stop for a coffee. The photo above shows the main entrance to the town on the right.
This photo is looking back toward the main entrance from inside the town. On the right is a 13th century church.

All of the above pictures are taken around the main town square, there is no access for cars, but as is the norm here nobody minds where a motorbike is parked and the bollards could not stop us. This is common practice all around this area of France, car parks are there to park cars and bikes are OK to park on pavements almost anywhere.
The town was founded in 1284 by King Edward 1st of England. Most of this area was for many years owned by the English Kings and the people thought of themselves as English at that time.
After a couple of hours looking around we stopped just outside the fortified part of town for our lunch, a 3 course lunch with wine for 12 euro each. The owner asked us to park on the pavement next to the tables rather than in the bus stop.
Off we went towards Agen, our original destination, when we passed this little house on a hill.
It turned out to be Chateau Biron. It was constructed between the 11th century and the 18th century. We did not have time to stop apart from to take these pictures. If we had then I understand that a guided tour is available at a cost of less than 6 euro.
We continued to Agen, but the battery let me down on the camera so I cannot show the place. Maybe next time I will take pictures and create another post.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What I did today

As you can see from the photo, today was a lovely warm day. At around 22 C, I went into the local town Rouffignac-st-Cernin. The picture above shows the church and the building next to it. These are the only two building to survive the war. After a confrontation with the local resistance during the war, the German army destroyed the village. They first made the inhabitants gather together all their sheets and blankets, loaded them onto a few trucks, and made the mayor write notices saying that they were a gift from hte people of Rouffignac to the people of Germany - as if they had a choice!
The Germans then forced the people out of the town and destroyed it.
This is the plaque that is in the entrance to the Mairie (town hall), which commemorates the crime. Note that it reads Nazis and not Germans. Many of these memorials did at one time read German, but were changed in later times to read Nazis.
The town war memorial, which lists all the sacrifices that this place made during both world wars.
This is the market building that was built when the town was rebuilt, just to the right of the blue bus stop sign there is a stone stating that this ist the place of 31st March 1944. Very sad, but not something that we should forget.
A picture of the Mairie building. There are fantastic views over the hills behind this and in some directions one can see for 20 or 30 miles.
When I got home I decided to fit a digital voltmeter into the car. I was lucky enough to get one that fits into the small shelf just below the radio on the left. Why? you may ask, well, I have got to have something to do and I love anything technical.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

About bikers

I found this little write up somewhere on the internet and thought it was worthy of being posted here.

"The Truth About Bikers"

I saw you,
hug your purse closer to you at the corner shop till.

But, you didn't see me,
put an extra £10.00 in the collection plate last Sunday.

I saw you,
pull your child closer when we passed each other on the pavement.

But, you didn't see me,
playing Santa at the local Christmas fete.

I saw you,
change your mind about going into the restaurant.

But, you didn't see me,
attending a meeting to raise more money for the orphans in Africa.

I saw you,
roll up your window and shake your head when I drove by.

But, you didn't see me,
driving behind you when you flicked your cigarette end out of the car window.

I saw you,
frown at me when I smiled at your children.

But, you didn't see me,
when I took time off from work to run toys to the homeless.

I saw you,
stare at my long hair.

But, you didn't see me,
and my friends cut ten inches off for charity.

I saw you,
roll your eyes at our leather jackets and gloves.

But, you didn't see me,
and my brothers donate our old jackets and gloves to those that had none.

I saw you,
look in fright at my tattoos.

But, you didn't see me,
cry as my children where born and have their name written over and in my heart.

I saw you,
change lanes while rushing off to go somewhere.

But, you didn't see me,
going home to be with my family.

I saw you,
complain about how loud and noisy our bikes can be.

But, you didn't see me,
when you were changing the CD and drifted into my lane.

I saw you,
yelling at your kids in the car.

But, you didn't see me,
pat my child's hands, knowing he was safe behind me.

I saw you,
reading the newspaper or map as you drove down the road.

But, you didn't see me,
squeeze my wife's leg when she told me to take the next turn.

I saw you,
race down the road in the rain.

But, you didn't see me,
get soaked to the skin so my son could have the car to go on his date.

I saw you,
run the yellow light just to save a few minutes of time.

But, you didn't see me,
trying to turn right.

I saw you, cut me off because you needed to be in the lane I was
in. But, you didn't see me leave the road.

I saw you,
waiting impatiently for my friends to pass.

But, you didn't see me.
I wasn't there.

I saw you,
go home to your family.

But, you didn't see me.
Because, I died that day you cut me up.

I was just a biker,.....
A person with friends and a family.
But, you didn't see me

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wine, a beginners view

When I lived in Germany the only wine that I would drink was German white. Not the Leibfraumilch that they sell in the UK, but bottles from individual vinyards. I liked a sweet white and thought that all French white was dry. After moving back to the UK I developed a taste for red wine and they all tasted the same to me. After moving to this area of France, two years ago, I started to buy 2 or 3 bottles of very different wine, mostly from this area. Bergerac and Cahors wines are the ones I am talking about now, and I started to taste the difference.
The two bottles in the picture above are not really Bergerac wine but Cotes Du Marmandais. The one on the right is from a vinyard called La Vielle Eglise, a 2003, and is the most fruity wine that I have tasted. I bought 2 bottles of this and was so impressed that that I drove the 20 miles back to the shop and bought another 24 bottles. It cost me 2.30 euros per bottle.
The picyure above shows four different Bergerac wines and all cost less than 3 or 4 euros per bottle. The one on the roght is a Cotes de Bergerac which means on the edge of the region, this is also a very nice wine as those on the outer edges of the wine region tend to be.
Another Bergerac, but this time a white. This is not a dry but a sweet white and costs less than 2 euro per bottle. I don't drink much of this but it is very nice to drink, when I can stop Jude cooking with it.
In this picture are two bottles of Cahors wine (right) and a bottle of Pechamant.
The Pechamant is a special treat for me as It is a Bergerac red but from the eastern edge of the region. The soil there has heavy iron deposits and it shows in the taste. This area commands a more expensive price and can cost anything from 5 to 30 euro a bottle. But it is worth it. I open a bottle of this whenever we have visitors from the UK.
The two bottles of Cahors are very different, a much heavier full bodied wine, and quite cheap. The Carte Noir in the middle is for sale at around 1,50 euro a bottle. Even a 1996 Cahors can be bought for under 3 euro.
I used to think that red wine was for posh people and that they all tasted the same, but for very little money I have proved myself wrong. If there are any visiting BMW bikers who would like to taste any of these then they are allways welcome to visit. My wine rack here is not huge, but I challenge even the hardest bikers to try and drink all 150 or so bottles!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fluffy things in trees - beware

A few days ago Jude noticed a thing in one of the pine trees just above the house. It looked like a white fulffy sock over the end of one of the branches. We thought that it was a spider or catapillar nest. After going for a drive we noticed a few more in the area. If you click on the photos they should enlarge a little.
After a Google search, it turns out that they are the nests of something called a Processional Catapillar, and yes they are nasty. They have fine hairs which can cause all sorts of reactions in humans and can kill pets.
According to some websites the only way to get rid of them is to burn them without releasing the fine hairs, and no I am not going to start climbing the trees.
The point of this thread is to warn pet owners out walking dogs, if a dog eats one they can be deadly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Some things to think about before moving to France

Thinking of moving to France? Here are some things that might be helpful, based on my own experience.


Many people would like to watch English TV when they get here. If that is the case with you then a little preparation could help. With a Sky Digibox you can watch the channels that you get in the UK in France. The digibox connects to the TV with a scart lead so any TV, UK or French will work with it. You do not need to bring the dish with it from the UK as a French dish works fine and they are cheap here. If you have not got a digibox, then ebay is the place to buy one secondhand.
Do not bother bringing a freeview settop box with you as they will not work here.

Car Insurance

In the UK many people have maximum no claims bonus. That equates to 4 or 5 years over there, but in France the discount is given for driving experience. The maximum discount requires around 12 to 15 years experience. If you produce a NCD certificate with 60% or 5 years on it, be prepared to pay loads of money. The best thing to do is look for all your insurance renewal certificates going back as far as you can, this will prove the years of driving experience that you have and will ensure a decent discount. If you want to continue with UK insurance then read the small print, as they often say that you must be UK resident.

Bringing a car with you

In my opinion it is better to sell your UK car over there and buy a LHD here. If you want to bring your RHD car with you and it is later than 2002, then ask the UK dealer for a Certificate of Conformity, this is normally free. Cars older than 2002 were not required by the EU to have one, and life could become difficult when you come to register it here.
The same goes for motorbikes, except for the power limit here. The French insurers won’t like anything over 100bhp. We changed both of our bikes to 99bhp BMWs and have now got them on French plates.
There is no road tax on cars or bikes here and no CT (MOT) on bikes at all.

Household goods

Fridges and washing machines will work just fine here the voltage is just about the same as the UK. You will need to change plugs on them , but it can be useful to bring some 4 gang trailing leads from the UK, that way you need only change one plug for a few appliances. If you need a new fridge anyway then I would advise you to leave the old one in the UK and buy new here in France as there seems to be more choice and they seem to be cheaper. There is also the availability of spare parts should you need something.

Mobile phones

If you have a mobile in the UK and are coming here, then have the phone “unlocked” at a small independent phone shop or market stall in the UK. This means that when you get here you just need to get a SIM card for your phone and you will have a French mobile number. If you are living in both countries, you can change between both SIM cards to have a UK service in the UK and a French service here.


You will need to contact the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK a few months before you intend to move. They will supply you with a form E106 or E121 to cover your healthcare in France. The health system is, in my opinion, much better than the UK. For example; I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism in the UK. My doctor told me that waiting lists were now only 6 months. He booked an appointment with a consultant for 6 months time and said that I would gat an appointment for a scan 6 months later and have a small operation 6 months after that, total 18 months! I came here, went to a French doctor who arranged for the scan in 12 days and told me that if I needed the operation it would be about 3 weeks after that. As luck would have it I did not need the operation.

Note: The above information is by no means comprehensive as this is a very large and detailed subject, I would advise anyone who wants to understand more about the health system to joint the France Forum in the link to the right of the blog to find further information.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The seasons are changing

Perhaps I should have called this post more mushrooms. Jude and I wandered down to the post box yesterday and took some more mushroom pictures. The nights are a little cooler now so there were no Cepes, but plenty of other interesting fungi. Here are a selection of them.

The photos are all uploaded in a compressed format so they lose a little resolution on these pages, but we have the original A4 hi res photos and I was thinking of getting them proffessionally printed as they would look great as pictures on the wall. Do I see a business coming on here?
These green/blue ones are very pretty, but there are very few of these and they are hard to find. Most of them were single ones but we managed to find these two growing together.

This sample is just starting the reproduction process as the white around the cap is a sort of white mould, and mushrooms are just fungus after all.
I liked these curly ones, they seem to catch the oak leaves on top and I wonder if this is so that they can spread their spores onto the dead leaves.
This was a fallen tree trunk complete with moss and at least two different kinds of mushroom growing on it. There were at least 200 mushrooms in total over a 2 meter length of the trunk.
And finally here is my favourite picture. The contrast of colours is fantastic when shown full screen. The mushrooms are a very delicate pink colour with the light green of the ivy leaves, and the brown of the dead leaves in the background.
I have no doubt that if we go back to the same place today, many of these will have been eaten by slugs and deer, but there will be loads more that have grown to replace them.
I don't know what would be safe to eat but the reward of the wander is not only the food but the pictures too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A day out on the bikes

Checked the weather forcast this morning and it said hot and sunny, so a day out on hte bikes was forcast. I have just managed to get mine French registered, so have a nice small, but legal numberplate fitted now. Jude still has the ironing board UK plate for the time being.
We went down to Les Eyzies and took the Sarlat road, this must be one of our favourite roads with a good smooth surface, banked bends and at this time of year, few cars. We had a look around the market in Sarlat and took the above picture just as we were about to leave.
We then went to Groligac to visit Eddie, who normally rides a Honda VFR800, but has been a little ill these past few weeks. I hope that he can get back on the bike soon, and the skiing season will be with us in a few months so he had better hurry up. At his age he should be taking things easy. but not Ed, he is in his late sixties and is trying to sqeeze as much out of life as he can before he pops his clogs. He did a track day for the first time a few months ago.
After rubbing Eddies nose in the fact that it was biking weather we went off and had a coffee.
While drinking that coffee, a group of French bikers turned up, one of them on this nice old BMW R90/S from about 1976. The others were on a couple of Ducatis, A Moto Guzzi, Three BMW R1200GSs and a BMW R1150R. The interesting thing about the picture above is that this is the grandad of our bikes, which can be seen in the background.

This last bike is the BMW K1200R Sport that has just been anounced at the German motorcycle show. It look so much like our bikes, but with a four cylinder engine and around 160bhp. Give me a year or two and I'll have one of these. Only problem is that it will be a restricted 100 bhp French version.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

La Roque Saint-Christophe

Well no bikes today, but here is a great place for bikers to visit. The top picture shows the Cafe which does good chips.
It is called ""La Roque Saint-Christophe". It is an imposing cliff face water cut cave overlooking the river Vezere. It was first inhabited around 50,000 years ago. Eventually it bacame a village built into the cave and extending to the ground below. It was finally destroyed around the 16th century. In that time even the Vikings used to raid it and there is a lookout post on the cliff opposite to warn when they were coming.
Originally there was only a narrow wooden platform which gave access to the main cave. This could be raised in times of crisis. Now this modern entrance exists in front of the platform. Notice how the glass has been shaped to fit around the water eroded rock.
The access road today is still small. The main cave is above and to the right of this picture, and the river to the left.
Looking the other way from the last picture, you can see the river on the right of the road.
A later addition. Probably built when the village was extended down below the main cave cut.
Looking up, you can see the main cave at the top of this picture, and a shelter that has been cut, with handtools, into the rock below it. I don't know what the two vertical cuts are for.
Another picture looking up at the main cave, There would have been house fronts built into this and if you look just above the cave in the middle, you can see the bell in a cutout where the church used to be. There were many shops and businesses up there too.
Further down you can see more evidence of the amount of work that has gone into this place over the years. The square holes in the rock face are where beams would be fitted to support floors and roofs,
Wherever you look there are holes and cavities that predate the 16th century. Some of these would have been sleeping platforms and others cupboards. In some places there are flights of steps.
I have visited this place a number of times and everytime I see something new. In the main cave there is a scale model of the place as it would have looked just before its demise.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Visiting Bikes

This post was going to about another tourist attraction just down the road, but a phone call changed all that. Julie, phoned from the other side of Perigueux. We had not met before but another English biking couple living in the area must have something in common with us.
After a further phone call from Rouffignac church, I got my BMW out and went to show them the way to the house.
If you click on the above picture it should enlarge. The difference in the size of these two bikes is quite amazing, not only in the engine, 1300cc against 400cc.
Julie is a petite lady so she rides this cute Honda 400, an ideal bike for short legs. (I know how you feel Julie). Jeffs Hyabusa is a different matter, It was never meant to be a trail bike, but he had no problem with hte track or the drive. What a beautiful machine.
As I suspected another biker couple with the same love of this part of France have such similar interests, I am sure we'll cover many miles together, oh no that should be kilometers over here.