The Homecoming!

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Hard to believe, but here I am this morning at 5 am PST drinking my first bulletproof coffee of the day sitting in front of a roaring fire listening to the raindrops on the roof…and not a croissant in sight!  Sad and happy at the same time.  Another chapter to close in order to open a new one.

The final week of our adventure was just as much fun as the first one with some sightseeing in Montpellier and biking and walking in Holland.  After saying ‘au revoir’ to our dear host and friend, Celine, we had a quiet and uneventful train ride from Narbonne to Montpellier …no bicycles to load and unload!  However, I did miss my trusty steed when I had to carry my panniers to the hotel from the train station!

In Montpellier it was sunny and windy…good for wandering amongst the historical buildings and bustling plazas.  It was the weekend, so lots of folks out and about. The  main square…La Place de la Comedie…had market stalls set up which is always interesting and had some great local entertainment and a very cool light show…

Sunday morning we walked over to the Botanical Gardens which are undergoing a renovation…so the greenhouses were closed…it was a quiet place for a stroll amongst some lovely big trees and fountains.  On our flight over France that evening we could see the lights of so many villages!  We arrived back in Hilversum where we were greeted by our dear friend, Connie, Simone’s mother who was instrumental in helping us with our adventure in that she was the receiver of our packages and bicycles when we sent them from France.

Monday morning was wet and cold with a promise for the rain to stop by 1 pm.  A few coffees later and I hopped on my bicycle… I don’t think I have mentioned this, but she does have a name…GIGI.  Off to the village we went for some fresh croissants at the French bakery!  And some delicious Dutch cheeses!  The rain clouds caught me on the way ‘home’, but I was tightly wrapped in my ‘cocoon’ and arrived warm and dry.

That evening we welcomed Jaap and Simone back into their lovely home from their month long trip in Southern Spain.  It was a fun evening sharing stories and jokes and talking about our upcoming ski season in Rossland.  We will see them again in one months time!  Tuesday they took us on a beautiful walk through forests and fields, stopping by an organic farm for some cheese and apples.  We were whisked off to airport on Wednesday morning….and arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday afternoon!  Sounds crazy now…but here we are with some great memories (and jet lag)….sitting in our dearly missed home dreaming about our next adventure!

 

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Another Rail Trail!

Well it appears that today might be our last day of warm and sunny weather with no wind.  We headed off to the north west of here back into the ‘Montagnes Noirs’ of the Central Massif but this time for a cycling adventure on the ‘Passa Pais’ voie verte (an old converted rail bed).  We started in St. Pons de Thomiere and headed east…although a bit chilly when we started out, it warmed up throughout the day until we were down to T-shirts again!

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We made it to Olargues on the Juar River (which runs just below the trail) for our picnic…an ancient city inhabited at one time by the Visigoths, Vandals and then Romans.

The vistas from the trail were beautiful…and yes, you can see Mount Caroux in the background which is where we hiked in the Gorges a few days ago.

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The bees were busy in this late blooming heather…

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Capitelles and windmills

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Today was another bluebird walking/hiking day…in T-shirts!!!  There was no wind so we went to the top of the limestone escarpment above St. Chinian and this is what we saw…

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Lots of ‘dry stone’  (I.e., no mortar) walls some of them up to 4 meters across…and quite a few shelters also built ‘dry stone’ style called ‘capitelles’ or ‘borias’.

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And more beautiful scenery…

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Beziers

Today it was back to the Canal du Midi where we cycled to Beziers from Columbiers to have a look at the famous Nine step locks…quite a feat of engineering to accomplish back in the 1600’s!  Another lovely picnic in the sunshine beside the canal and then back past Columbiers to have a look at the tunnel and the view of the Montady drainage area.

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And tonight another BBQ…

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Les Gorges d’Héric

Yesterday we ventured back up into the Massif Central which are the mountains just about 30 kms north of here.  We had read some rave reviews about this hike through the Heric River gorge on TripAdvisor so thought it would be worthwhile….and it was fabulous!

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After slowly climbing up the gorge for 5 kms, we arrived at the hamlet of Héric.  Amazing that people actually live up here!!!

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More sunny days…

The wind has finally subsided!  And we continue to explore this gorgeous area of Languedoc-.Roussillon…its abbeys and castles and ruins….

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And here is how we get there…

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Today we drove to St. Pierre de la Mer, one of the many beaches south of here on the Mediterranean Sea.  We cycled a very lovely loop through vineyards and pine forest at the base of some limestone cliffs and then back along the beach.

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#5 of the Top 10 places to Retire!!! (From CNBC website)

5. Saint-Chinian, France

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Vineyards near Saint Chinian, France.
Paul Atkinson | Getty Images

In the true south of the country on the shores of the Mediterranean, this town of about 2,000 residents is a bustling market town popular with locals who come from all around the region to taste the locally grown produce and artisan goods — a truly French experience. Though it may be small, Saint-Chinian has everything you need for daily life — local produce shops, restaurants, bars, doctor’s office, dentist, pharmacy, a health shop, wine cellars — yet it is still a small, charming little town, barely more than a village, typical of the region and packed with history and lots to see and do.

What else do expats cite as the reasons they chose this part of the world for retirement? Better weather tops the list for the mainly British and northern European expat population seeking bluer skies, but also the opportunity for more outdoor living… good-quality, fresh food… fantastic and accessible art, history, and culture… dependable and high-quality health care… beautiful and varied countryside… good infrastructure yet little to no traffic… and, above all, a slower pace of life that comes inherent with this tranquil, peaceful town.